European Public Health Alliance: WHO guidelines should set air pollution policy

Last year’s updated World Health Organisation (WHO) global air quality guidelines should set reduction targets for continental cities, a leading medical expert says. 

The European Public Health Alliance has published an article by Italian medic Dr Alessandro Borgini, calling for WHO guidelines on air pollution to set localised targets for clean air. 

white and brown concrete buildings during daytime

Several Italian cities are cited in the work, including Cremona, just north of the Po valley, and Padua in the country’s northeast, where pollution levels exceed the maximum threshold for PM2.5 – 25 μg/m3 – as stipulated by the WHO. Milan, Brescia, Bergamo, Pavia, Venice, Vicenza, and Turin are also listed as being among a further 23 metropolitan areas with poor air quality (with PM2.5 between 15 and 25 μg/m3). 

According to Borgini: ‘European air quality laws must comply with the limits proposed by WHO. A more ambitious European Ambient Air Quality Directive will push local authorities to increase sustainable mobility, reduce emissions of pollutants from traffic and heating, and a real expansion of urban green space in each city, with the planting of trees.’

The article also references the ineffective nature of current EU legislation on air pollution. Limits set in 2008 remain in place, yet the  bloc recorded 307,000 premature deaths in 2019 alone.

By comparison, the UK is also still struggling with air quality. Up to 36,000 annual deaths each year are thought to be linked to poor air quality, and current regulations also fail to match the latest international guidance. According to data from the Central Office of Public Interest unveiled earlier this year, 97% of British addresses currently breach at least one WHO air pollution limit. 

Image credit: Julia Solonina


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