WHO study shows Malta’s air pol­lu­tion to be rel­a­tively low but still above rec­om­mended lim­its

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

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.

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