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Air Pollution: The Forgotten Pandemic

Long before COVID-19 became a global health emergency, another silent pandemic had gone unnoticed: air pollution. Each year, about seven million people suffer a premature death due to health complications from poor air quality, while 90% of the world’s population continues to be at risk, according to findings from the United Nations. 

This invisible threat doesn’t just lurk in wide open urban and industrial spaces where factories, construction sites and vehicles emit gases and particulate matter. Air pollutants have also been found circulating within millions of homes. “Yet, this pandemic receives inadequate attention as these deaths are not as dramatic as those caused by other disasters or epidemics,” said UN Special Rapporteur David Boyd in a meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. “Every hour, 800 people are dying, many after years of suffering, from cancer, respiratory illnesses or heart disease directly caused by breathing polluted air.”  

Air pollutants are everywhere, largely caused by burning fossil fuels for electricity, transportation, and heating, as well as from industrial activities, poor waste management and agricultural practices,” he said. 

It’s a climate and humanitarian problem that can be prevented, but only if city and national governments adhere to their legal obligations to safeguard citizens against these health hazards.

Air pollution statistics

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