The World Health Organisation (WHO) has ranked Nigeria as the sixth deadliest country for outdoor air pollution.
The UN agency, which in a recent analysis revealed that over a million people died from dirty air within one year, ranks Nigeria only below Ukraine, Pakistan, Russia, India and China. It discloses that, in one year, 46,750 persons died as a result of polluted air Nigeria.
The WHO warned a couple of years ago that tiny particulates from cars, power plants and other sources are killing seven million people worldwide each year.
Now, the health organisation has broken down that figure to a country-by-country level, revealing that, of the worst three nations, 1,032,833 people died from dirty air in China in 2012, 621,138 in India and 140,851 in Russia.
Additionally, while 59,241 died in Pakistan, Ukraine lost 54,507 lives. Nigeria is closely followed by Egypt and Bangladesh, which recorded 43,531 and 37,449 deaths respectively.
In Europe, the UK ranks worse than France, with 16,355 deaths in 2012 versus 10,954, but not as poorly as Germany at 26,160, which has more industry and 16 million more people.
Maria Neria, director of the WHO’s public health and the environment department, said: “Countries are confronted with the reality of better data. Now we have the figures of how many citizens are dying from air pollution. What we are learning is, this is very bad. Now there are no excuses for not taking action.”
Gavin Shaddick, who led the international team that put together the data, stated: “Globally, air pollution presents a major risk to public health and a substantial number of lives could be saved if levels of air pollution were reduced.”
Sixteen scientists from eight international institutions worked with WHO on the analysis, which gathered data from 3,000 locations, using pollution monitors on the ground, modelling and satellite readings.
They looked at exposure to tiny particulates 2.5 microns in size, known as PM2.5s, which penetrate the lungs and are the air pollutant most strongly associated with an increased risk of death. “The real driver of ill health is ultra-fine particles, 2.5s – they have the ability to permeate the membrane of the lungs and enter our blood system,” said Shaddick, who is based at the University of Bath. “Increasingly there is an understanding that there are not just respiratory diseases but cardiovascular ones associated with PM2.5s.”
Globally, 92% of the population breathes air that breaches WHO limits but the world map of deaths caused by PM2.5s changes when looked at per capita. When ranked by the number of deaths for every 100,000 people, Ukraine jumps to the top of the list at 120.
It is followed by eastern European and former Soviet states, and Russia itself, probably due to a legacy of heavy industry in the region. China drops down to 10th, at 76 per 100,000, and India falls to 27th, with 49 per 100,000.