WHO Advises Tighter Air Pollution Guidelines to Combat Health Threats

After 16 years, the World Health Organization has tightened its guidelines for air pollution in the hopes of tackling the decades-long problem of dirty air. It is a global issue and is considered the biggest threat to human health. It is a health emergency that deserves attention.


Air pollution has caused thousands of people to fall ill and even led to early death. It has become a major global problem in the same way that unhealthy diets and smoking have.  


This is why the WHO decided to slash its recommended limits for particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide emissions, two of the most dangerous air pollutants that can cause severe effects on human health. The move may have surprised many, but WHO leaders believe that everyone deserves to breathe clean, safe air. It is everyone’s fundamental right.


Aside from halving the recommended limits, the new guidelines also present relevant information about the negative effects of the pollutants, which are tiny particles that have powerful, almost-lethal, effects on any individual exposed to them. Air pollution has become even more dangerous than car accidents and smoking. Approximately 8.7 million premature deaths are due to air pollution-related causes, including diesel emissions. This makes up about 20% of the total number of deaths in a year.


In India and other highly polluted countries, dirty air cuts down lives by six years. The global population loses an average of two years to air pollution.


With the lowered concentrations, the WHO is hoping to encourage governments to take more determined and stricter steps in the fight against air pollution.


However, the new limits must not be regarded as safe levels because, in reality, there isn’t a safe level; there isn’t any level where the damaging effects of dirty air disappear or stop.  Following the WHO guidelines, though, is the best way to reach the goal of cleaner air for everyone.


Air pollution dangers


The World Health Organization’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, defines air pollution as a global threat to health. It is the cause of many people’s suffering, many of whom belong to the vulnerable population.


One of the most popular cases related to air pollution is the death of Ella Kissi-Debrah, a nine-year-old girl whose premature death was ruled by the UK coroner as primarily due to dirty air.  The young girl died in 2013 suffering from severe asthma and acute respiratory failure. The coroner also ruled air pollution exposure as a cause of her death.


Ella typically walked home to school, so she was constantly exposed to particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide that mostly came from vehicle emissions. She breathed in toxic air for most of her life. Children (and adults) like her who have asthma are especially susceptible to various illnesses.


Constant exposure to polluted air may cause the following:


       Asthma and aggravated asthma

       Respiratory infections

       Reduced lung function and growth in children

       Increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases (that can lead to early death)


       Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues


Ella’s death opened the eyes not only of the authorities but also of residents, particularly those who lived within the South Circular Road area, where the nine-year-old lived with her mum. The air she breathed every day had high levels of NOx or nitrogen oxides.


Nitrogen oxides are harmful gases that contain NO (nitric oxide) and NO2 (nitrogen dioxide). They are emitted by diesel vehicles and have been the subject of many cases involving some of the world’s biggest car manufacturers through the Dieselgate scandal.


How the Dieselgate scandal is connected to air pollution


The Dieselgate scandal first came into the spotlight in September 2015 when the US Environmental Protection Agency or EPA noticed defeat devices installed in Volkswagen diesel vehicles sold throughout the United States. VW initially denied the allegations but later on revealed that they did install the illegal device in their vehicles.


Defeat devices are illegal software designed to detect emissions testing. When a vehicle is in the lab for testing, the device immediately senses this and automatically adjusts emissions levels so these stay within the WHO limits. However, once brought out of the lab and into real-world road conditions, the vehicle reverts to its default emissions levels, which far exceed the WHO and EU limits.


Aside from Volkswagen, other car manufacturers implicated in the scandal, which easily spread throughout Europe and the UK, include Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Alfa Romeo, Porsche, Peugeot, and Jeep, among others.


Car owners are encouraged to file for diesel emissions claim against their manufacturers. This is the best way to help in the fight against air pollution.


Filing your emissions claim


To file a VW or Mercedes emissions claim, visit the manufacturer’s website to verify the information you need. Emission compensation claims cases can be challenging and may take time, so be sure to work with a panel of emissions solicitors. They are trained and experienced in winning claims, so you will be in good hands. Choose to go with a regulated panel of solicitors, such as the ones at


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