WHO Global Air Quality Guidelines- Relevance for UPSC Exam
- GS Paper 3: Environment- Conservation, environmental pollution, and degradation.
WHO Global Air Quality Guidelines- Context
- Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) in its first-ever update since 2005 has tightened global air pollution standards.
- WHO updated these standards in a recognition of the emerging science in the last decade that suggests the impact of air pollution on health is much more serious than previously envisaged.
WHO Global Air Quality Guidelines- Key Points
- WHO Global Air Quality Guidelines provide clear evidence of the damage air pollution inflicts on human health, at even lower concentrations than previously understood. Key findings are-
- In 2019, 99% of the world population was living in places where the WHO air quality guidelines levels were not met.
- Ambient (outdoor air pollution) in both cities and rural areas was estimated to cause 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide in 2016.
- Some 91% of those premature deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries and the greatest number in the WHO South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions.
- Indoor smoke is a serious health risk for some 3 billion people who cook and heat their homes with biomass, kerosene fuels and coal.
- WHO recommends new air quality levels to protect the health of populations: This is to be done by reducing levels of key air pollutants from the environment, many of which are also responsible for Global Climate Change.
- Key Changes: WHO announces limits for six pollutant categories– particulate matter (PM) 2.5 and 10, ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) Sulphur dioxide (SO2) and carbon monoxide (CO).
|Pollutant||Averaging Time||2005 (AGQs)||2021 (AGQs)|
|PM 2.5||Annual and 24 Hour mean||10 and 25 Respectively||5 and 15 Resp.|
|PM 10||Annual and 24 Hour mean||20 and 50 Resp.||15 and 45 Resp.|
|Ozone (O3)||Peak Season and 8 hours||Undefined for peak season and 100 for 8 hours||60 and 100 resp.|
|NO2||Annual and 24 Hour mean||40 and undefined resp.||10 and 25 resp.|
WHO Global Air Quality Guidelines- Impact on India
- India’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) don’t meet the WHO’s existing standards, hence, the updated global air pollution standards won’t affect India immediately.
- Experts say that the WHO move sets the stage for eventual shifts in policy in the government towards evolving newer stricter standards.
- National Clean Air Program: It aims for a 20% to 30% reduction in particulate matter concentrations by 2024 in 122 cities, keeping 2017 as the base year for the comparison of concentration.
- These are cities that don’t meet the NAAQS when calculated from 2011-2015.