SWITZERLAND – The World Health Organization has issued new guidelines on air pollution which will dramatically reduce the levels of particulate matter (PM) and other pollutants linked to a range of diseases.
These illnesses include heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, and respiratory diseases including asthma.
“Since WHO’s last 2005 global update, there has been a marked increase of evidence that shows how air pollution affects different aspects of health,” said the global health body.
Air pollution is implicated in some 7 million premature deaths each year, more than 90% of them in developing countries.
A 2018 report found that every child on the African continent was exposed to more particulate matter than even the previous guidelines called for.
“It hits people in low- and middle-income countries the hardest,” said WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as he also urged all countries and all those fighting to protect the environment to put them to use to reduce suffering and save lives.
The new guidelines set lower exposure standards for ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide, as well as particulate matter (PM).
WHO said particles with a diameter of 10 microns or less (PM10) can enter and lodge deep inside the lungs, but even smaller particles can enter the blood system. These PM2.5 particles contribute to lung cancer and other illnesses.
With PM2.5, WHO researchers say almost 80% of deaths could be avoided if existing air pollution levels were reduced to those found in the updated guidelines.
WHO also said it’s clear that individuals don’t make decisions for industry, which accounts for pollution from factories, transport and power facilities, but everyone was encouraged to act for change on air pollution and other climate-related issues.
Mental Health Action Plan
Under the same umbrella, is an updated Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030 that builds upon previous plans and sets out clear actions for Member States.
The WHO Secretariat and international, regional and national partners are on call to promote mental health and well-being for all, and to prevent mental health conditions for those at-risk and to achieve universal coverage for mental health services.
While the updated action plan includes new and updated indicators and implementation options, the original four major objectives remain unchanged.
These include; more effective leadership and governance for mental health; the provision of comprehensive, integrated mental health and social care services in community-based settings.
In addition to these is implementation of strategies for promotion and prevention as well as strengthened information systems, evidence and research.