Air pollution is even more dangerous than previously thought, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned, as it reducing maximum safe levels of key pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide. The new guidelines halve the recommended maximum for exposure to tiny particles called PM2.5s. It is also cutting the recommended limit for another class of microparticles, known as PM10s, by 25%.
The WHO puts air pollution on a par with smoking and unhealthy eating.
An estimated seven million people die prematurely each year from diseases linked to air pollution, the WHO says. Low- and middle-income countries suffer the most, because of their reliance on fossil fuels for economic development.
The changes to the guidelines mean the UK's legal limits for the most harmful pollutants are now four times higher than the maximum levels recommended by the WHO.
"Almost 80% of deaths related to PM2.5 could be avoided in the world if the current air pollution levels were reduced to those proposed in the updated guideline," the WHO said.
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