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90 per cent of the planet is breathing in polluted air

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Air pollution

India's environmental court National Green Tribunal (NGT) has urged Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Bihar to respond to a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report on 20 most-polluted cities in the world, officials said Friday.

According to WHO's ambient air quality database, despite some improvements, pollution levels are "still dangerously high" in most parts of the world.

To try and tackle the air pollution crisis that's now facing the capital, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has introduced a number of tough new measures including the T-charge which charges the most polluting types of vehicle that wish to drive through the city.

The report did mention, however, that the nations with the most polluted cities are making efforts, for example, India's Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana which in 2 years has provided 37 million women living below the poverty line with free LPG connections to switch to clean household energy use. New data released by World Health Organization shows that nine out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants.

The PM2.5 includes pollutants like sulfate, nitrate and black carbon, which pose the greatest risk to human health.

It's a problem that affects more than 40 per cent of the world's population - some three billion people - a situation that the WHO Director-General described as "unacceptable". It attributes some 7 million deaths yearly to air pollution as tiny particulate matter lodge deep inside the lungs, causing strokes, heart diseases, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections.

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Although there are major gaps on air pollution data from regions including the Western Pacific and Africa - where information was available in only eight out of 47 countries on the continent - the World Health Organization chief noted that the worldwide community was "starting to pay attention and take action" on air pollution, recognizing it as a threat to sustainable development.

Researchers looked at fine particle emissions - called PM 2.5 - which travel deeply into people's respiratory systems and can lead to health problems.

The data also reflects that monitoring in Indian cities has improved.

More than 90 per cent of deaths linked to air pollution occur in low- or middle-income countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, it found.

Waste burning and deforestation are additional sources of air pollution, as are sand and desert dust, the agency says.

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