Air pollution another silent killer, it’s about more than the lungs – WHO

9 out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air

Air pollution levels remain dangerously high in many parts of the world. New data from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. Updated estimations reveal the alarming death toll of 7 million people every year caused by ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution. More than 90% of air pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, followed by low- and middle-income countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region, Europe and the Ameri­cas.

“Air pollution threatens us all, but the poorest and most marginalized people bear the brunt of the burden,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. “It is unac­ceptable that over 3 billion people – most of them women and children – are still breathing deadly smoke every day from using polluting stoves and fuels in their homes. If we don’t take urgent action on air pollution, we will never come close to achieving sustainable development.”

Click here for the press release; the city database, interactive map, and all the updated health data; frequently asked questions and infographics.

Maximizing health benefits from the sustainable energy transition

Energy is crucial for achieving almost all of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), from eradication of poverty through advancements in health, education, water supply and industriali­zation to combating air pollution and climate change.

New Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report includes updated data from WHO on household air pollution showing that 3 billion people – or more than 40% of the world’s popula­tion – still do not have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies. Household air pollution from burning solid fuels and using kerosene for cooking alone is responsible for some 4 mil­lion deaths a year, with women and children being at greatest risk. The report provides a com­prehensive summary of the world’s progress towards the global energy targets on access to electricity, clean cooking fuels, renewable energy and energy efficiency. The report was launched at the Sustainable Energy for All forum held on 2 May 2018 in Lisbon, Portugal. For the press release click here. For further information, on WHO work on household air pollution click here.

Policy briefs in support of the first SDG7 review at the UN High-Level Political Forum 2018 in­cludes a brief on Achieving universal access to clean and modern cooking fuels, technologies and services (Brief #2), as well as Health and energy linkages – Maximizing health benefits from the sustainable energy transition (Brief #10). The briefs were developed by WHO in collab­oration with Climate and Clean Air Coalition, Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, United Na­tions Environment, United Nations Children’s Fund and United for Energy Efficiency. The publi­cation was launched at the UN High-Level Political Forum on 18 April 2018 in New York, the United States of America. For the press release click here.


Experts develop a new roadmap for strengthening workers’ health

With an aim to develop strategic directions for WHO’s future action on health and work, forty experts came together at WHO in Geneva to produce a preliminary roadmap for action by the health sector for implementing the SDGs relevant to workers health. The experts identified cost-effective policy options at national and international levels to achieve SDG targets and pro­posed a set of high priority actions for improving workers’ health and the working environment in the context of global action on health, environment and climate change.

The experts represented ministries of health, international organizations including the Interna­tional Labour Organization, and the network of WHO Collaborating Centres for Occupational Health.

The meeting took place from 9–11 April 2018 at WHO in Geneva. For more information, click here.

Health in All Policies workshop – the case of air pollution, urban health and sustainability

For the first time, a Health in All Policies (HiAP) workshop will address and empower the pub­lic health workforce (public health educators and public and environmental health profession­als) by providing them with skills to advance multisectoral action in health and sustainable development with a focus on air pollution and urban health. Participants of the workshop will identify the skills needed in practice, and examine useful approaches for education to move policy in support of both health and the environment. Collaborative action and HiAP will sup­port reaching the SDGs.

The workshop is being organized in collaboration with the Association of Schools and Pro­grams of Public Health (ASPPH) and the National Environmental Health Association and will take place from 18 to 20 June 2018 in Washington (DC), the United States. For more infor­mation, click here. For more on WHO’s work on HiAP click here.

Chemical releases caused by natural hazards

Natural hazards such as earthquakes, floods and cyclones can cause the release of chemicals from fixed chemical installations, pipelines, transport systems, hospitals and homes. These releases are known as Natech events and they can severely hamper response activities. Risk managers have only recently started studying the causes and consequences of Natech events. It is anticipated that these events triggered especially by floods and cyclones will become more frequent as a consequence of climate change. A new publication, Chemical releases caused by natural hazard events and disasters – information for public health authorities aim to inform the health sector about this issue and provides brief guidance on the role of the health sector in prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. This publication is complemented by three short documents on earthquakes, floods and cyclones.

For more on WHO’s work on chemical safety click here.


#BreatheLife challenge – A marathon for clean air

The BreatheLife challenge is the first in series of campaigns to mobilize citizens to act in their own interests, for better air quality and health. We want to rally people to walk, bike and use public transport to clean the air and to take a pledge to reduce air pollution emissions by partici­pating in ’a marathon a month – the equivalent of 42 kilometres or 26 miles of car use.

This May, WHO released new data on the state of air pollution in the world. The latest air pollu­tion levels and trends from 4,000 cities will be made public. Committing to a marathon for clean air will offer people a way to take action together.

We invite your organization to promote the challenge on different platforms. Use this guide to get

tips, messages and ideas on what your organization can do. For more information, visit