In many parts of the world, exposure to air pollution is increasing at an alarming rate and has become the main environmental threat to health. The latest edition of the World Bank’s annual compilation of environment data - Little Green Data Book 2015 (LGDB) – documents this for over 200 countries in terms of both physical exposure to air pollution and its economic costs. This book features two new pollution indicators on ambient air pollution in both urban and rural areas: mean annual exposure to PM2.5 pollution and percent of total population exposed to PM2.5 pollution above World Health Organization’s (WHO) guideline values of an annual average of 10 μg/cu. m.
This year’s edition includes three important changes in how air pollution is measured:
- All air pollution indicators are now expressed as exposure to suspended particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5), as opposed to the earlier measure of particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter (PM10). PM2.5 is a subset of PM10, but constitutes the very fine particulates capable of penetrating deep into the respiratory tract and causing severe health damage.
- In previous years, the estimates of ambient air pollution was limited to exposure to outdoor PM10 pollution in urban areas with more than 100,000 people. Now, ambient air pollution is measured for all urban as well as rural areas.
- This year’s estimates of the economic costs of air pollution (related to health impacts) also includes exposure to indoor air pollution, as indicated by household use of solid fuels.
Data on air pollution exposure and associated health impacts are published in the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, an international scientific effort led by Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. Updated results will be published in the forthcoming Global Burden of Disease Study 2013.