Turns out taking deep breaths may not be the best way to calm down anymore.
We have some bad news for you, so you might want to sit down and take a deep breath. Well, uh, scratch that second part, actually. According to a new report from the World Health Organization, basically no one on the planet is breathing clean air right now.
The United Nations health organization measured air quality in more than 6,000 municipalities across the planet to track if air quality has improved in the last six months, since the WHO implemented new guidelines to reduced the amount of pollutants in our air. The results were not exactly inspiring. They found 99% of the world’s population is currently breathing air that falls short of the organization’s standard for acceptable air quality — and it is literally killing us.
“After surviving a pandemic, it is unacceptable to still have 7 million preventable deaths and countless preventable lost years of good health due to air pollution,” Dr. Maria Neira, head of the WHO’s department of environment, climate change, and health, said in a statement. “Yet too many investments are still being sunk into a polluted environment rather than in clean, healthy air.”
While the air is bad pretty much everywhere, there are some regions where the situation is particularly dire. The WHO found that air quality in the eastern Mediterranean and Southeast Asia are the worst. Cyprus, an island country in the Mediterranean Sea, is on day three of air quality warnings that have kept residents inside, lest they risk being exposed to harmful microscopic particles that are filling the air. People who experience prolonged exposure to this type of poor air quality can experience higher levels of respiratory diseases that ultimately shorten lives.
Improving air quality is essential to improving quality of life, and there’s one great way to do it: Cut back on fossil fuels. Not only is burning oil and gas warming the planet, but it’s in large part responsible for the poor air quality that we are experiencing. We’ll all breathe easier if we actually do something about this.