Asian residents exposed to 9 times more air pollution than Europeans

Almost 90 per cent of premature deaths in low- and middle-income countries in Asia are attributable to air pollution, according to statistics from the World Health Organization. Air pollution in Asia is up to nine times higher than in Europe or America.

Asian residents are exposed to up to nine times more air pollution than Europeans or Americans, with 88 per cent of premature deaths in low- and middle-income countries in Asia attributed to poor air quality.

The number of road vehicles in Beijing increased from 1.5 million in 2000 to more than five million in 2014 and the number in Delhi is expected to increase from 4.7 million in 2010 to 25.6 million by 2030.

Researchers at the University of Surrey have now looked in detail at pollution exposure in Asia, including levels of fine particles, black carbon produced by carbon-rich fuels such as gasoline and diesel fuel, and ultrafine particles (UFP) small enough to travel deep into a human’s lungs.

Their review found evidence that pedestrians walking along busy roadsides in Asian cities are exposed to up to 1.6 times more fine particles than people in European and American cities, while the figure increases nine-fold for car drivers.

Black carbon levels were seven times higher for Asian pedestrians than Americans and in Hong Kong, UFP levels were up to four times higher than in European cities. In New Delhi, average black carbon concentration in cars was up to five times higher compared to Europe or North America.

Professor Prashant Kumar, lead author of the study, explained in a statement: “Care should be taken in directly comparing and contrasting the results of different studies due to varied amounts of information available on personal exposure in studied regions.

“However, there is compelling evidence that people travelling in urban areas in Asian cities are being exposed to a significantly higher level of air pollution.”

According to the statement, there is a gap in studies that focus on the Asian population living in rural, semi-rural or smaller cities, where pollution exposure could be as harmful as in urban areas.

Photo credit: Robin Hickmott/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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