Asia Minute: U.N. Says Air Pollution Worsening in Asia

Mar 15, 2019

Credit Alfred T. Palmer / Library of Congress

A new report out this week from the United Nations shows growing concern about air pollution. The problem is getting markedly worse in many areas — especially in parts of Asia.

The United Nations calls air pollution the single biggest environmental health risk in the world.

The UN says it causes between six and seven million premature deaths every year . . . with a societal cost of some 5-trillion dollars. Those estimates are part of the sixth annual Global Environment Outlook — put together by 250 scientists from 70 countries.

Water pollution highlights another section of the 700-page report —with the UN saying that’s responsible for nearly one and a half million preventable deaths each year. Other topics include climate change and plastic pollution — as well as the dumping of chemicals and runoff from pesticides.

But it’s air pollution that gets the most attention. Scientists say conditions have improved slightly in North America and Western Europe in recent years, but have worsened in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Cities from Bangkok to Seoul have struggled with fine dust particles in recent weeks and months. This week, South Korea’s parliament passed a set of bills designating air pollution as a “social disaster” — which may free up emergency spending to address it.

Agence France Presse reports the World Health Organization has cited several cities in Asia as among the most polluted in in the world — including Beijing, New Delhi, Kabul, Dhaka, Bangladesh and Ulannbaatar in Mongolia.