Most of the world’s population is breathing polluted air, but richer countries are doing a better job at reducing pollution than poorer ones, according to a report published by the World Health Organization on Monday.
The 2022 update to air quality database maintained by the United Nation’s health agency included data from 6,000 cities in 117 counties. That marked a record number of cities that are monitoring air quality, according to the WHO.
The data included measurements of various sizes of particulate matter. These are fine particles that result from the use of fossil fuels, and can cause cardiovascular, respiratory and cerebrovascular problems.
This year’s update introduced measurements of nitrogen dioxide for the first time. NO2 is considered a precursor to particulate matter and ozone, and is associated with respiratory problems, according to the WHO.
The WHO reported that the air in 83% of cities in wealthy countries, such as the U.S., Canada and Australia, complies with the agency’s air quality guidelines. That is compared to 99% of cities in poorer countries where the air does not comply with WHO guidelines.
According to the report, cities in most countries have trouble with nitrogen dioxide. There are about 4,000 cities in 74 countries that collect ground-level NO2 data. It showed that only 23% of people in those places breathe average concentrations of the pollutant.
The report called on countries to adopt or revise air quality standards, increase efforts to monitor air quality, implement stricter vehicle emissions standards and invest in the transition to clean-energy solutions for household use.