WHO study shows Malta’s air pollution to be relatively low but still above recommended limits
A new World Health Organisation air quality study published this week shows that Malta is among the 92 per cent of the world’s population that lives in places where air pollution levels exceed the limits recommended by the organisation.
The recommended limit in terms of median fine part particulate matter is 10 micrograms per cubic metre and Malta’s average rate comes in at 14 micrograms.
Although Malta exceeds the WHO’s limit, in 2013 it was the 11th best in the European Union and, out of 187 countries gauged, the 41st best in the world. The situation could well be expected to improve in future, once the country’s energy supply is converted to natural gas.
“The new WHO model shows where the air pollution danger spots are and provides a baseline for monitoring progress in combating it, says Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director General at the WHO.
The WHO collected air quality data from 3,000 locations across the globe and looked for concentrations of fine particulate matter, including sulphates, nitrates, mineral dust and black carbon, which are less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter – about 1/1000 of a millimetre, or the thickness of a credit card.
Both indoors and outside, these particles work their way into the lungs when we breathe, and can cause cardiovascular disease such as lung cancer, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
According to the report, one in every nine deaths each year – about six million in total – can be attributed to breathing in unhealthy concentrations of these particles.
Some three million deaths a year are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution and indoor air pollution can be just as deadly. In 2012, an estimated 6.5 million deaths (11.6 per cent of all global deaths) were associated with indoor and outdoor air pollution together.
“Air pollution continues to take a toll on the
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108 103 93 84 75 65 health of the most vulnerable elements of populations: women, children and older adults,” said Dr Bustreo. “For people to be healthy, they must breathe clean air from their first breath to their last.”
Major sources of air pollution include inefficient modes of transport, household fuel and waste-burning, coal-fired power plants and industrial activities. However, not all air pollution originates from human activity. For example, air quality can also be influenced by dust storms, particularly in regions close to deserts.
In fact neighbouring Libya has one of the worst – at 60 micrograms, which could have a trans-border effect at times on Malta.