Nine UK Cities Named By WHO For Violating Air Pollution Safety Levels

The World Health Organization (WHO) cited cities and urban areas throughout the United Kingdom for their air pollution levels that breach the WHO’s recommendations for air quality, a May 7 Guardian article reported.

According to the article, the latest data collected shows that nine British towns and cities are violating the WHO’s limits set for particles known as PM10. The nine cities are Birmingham, Chesterfield, Leeds, London, Nottingham, Sheffield, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent and Thurrock.

The most common types of air pollution are ozone (smog) and particle (soot) pollution; breathing air polluted by either is harmful to one’s health. The WHO measures air pollution in the concentration of PM particles, which are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter.

A WHO spokesman told the Guardian that during 2012, an estimated 3.7 million people died globally due to outdoor air pollution exposure. Deaths from heart disease and stroke, as well as respiratory illnesses and cancers, are typically associated with air pollution. Because PM particles are so small, they can permeate deep into a person’s lungs and pass into the bloodstream.

The UK isn’t the only place where civilians are being subjected to harmful air pollution levels, the Guardian reported. According to the WHO, the majority of cities around the world that measure their outdoor air pollution levels are failing to meet the organization’s recommendations for safe levels. This is putting residents of these cities at risk of the health problems that stem from air pollution. Worldwide, only 12% of people living in cities that report on air quality reside in places with air quality that coincides with WHO’s safety levels.

Of the 1,600 cities around the world that the WHO monitors for air quality, Delhi, India has the worst air quality, according to a May 8 Guardian article. In the United States, Los Angeles again had the worst atmospheric quality in the nation, according to the Los Angeles Times. About 147 million people — some 47% of the country’s population — live in counties with unhealthy air quality.

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