Saving lives must be a priority: Updated WHO global guidelines on air quality must turn data into action for all


Statement by Sergio Sánchez Senior Policy Director, EDF Global Clean Air – September 22, 2021


Kevin Tuerff, (512) 691-3451, [email protected]

“The World Health Organization‘s update of the global air quality guidelines is an important step forward. Based on the best available scientific evidence on the health effects of air pollution, these guidelines represent an important opportunity for national and local governments to save millions of lives by updating their air quality health standards and making decisions about clean air and public health policies.

“Compared to previous WHO guidelines, some of the updated air quality values ​​are significantly stricter. For example, the annual concentration for respirable particles PM2.5 has been reduced from 10 micrograms to 5 micrograms; in addition, the annual average concentration for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) has been reduced from 40 micrograms to 10 micrograms.

“Air pollution is a moral issue that undermines the basic human right to clean air and is a major contributor to climate change. The new guidelines should promote a common goal of scaling up efforts and resources according to the size of the challenge to help the most deprived communities, those most affected by the serious effects of air pollution.

“The lethal effects of air pollution on human health have more than tripled since the 2005 global update of air quality guidelines was published. Today it is estimated that air pollution cuts the lives of over 6 million people worldwide each year. And that impact is not evenly distributed as vulnerable communities around the world bear a heavy burden.

“In addition to the pain and suffering, poor air quality causes enormous economic costs. In the most recent updates, the World Bank has estimated the annual health cost of PM2.5 pollution at $ 8.1 trillion. ”

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Sergio Sánchez is Senior Policy Director of Global Clean Air for EDF Health and works worldwide on the implementation of air pollution control guidelines and strategies to mitigate climate change. Previously, he was Vice Minister for Environmental Protection of Mexico and Director General for Air Quality Management in the Mexican Ministry of the Environment and Director General for Environmental Projects for the Government of Mexico City. He also served as Executive Director of the Clean Air Institute, which operated across Latin America for over a decade.

One of the world’s leading international non-profit organizations, Environmental Defense Fund ( creates transformative solutions to the most serious environmental problems. To this end, EDF links science, business, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. With more than 2.5 million members and offices in the United States, China, Mexico, Indonesia and the European Union, EDF academics, economists, lawyers and policy experts work in 28 countries to make our solutions a reality. Connect with us on Twitter @EnvDefenseFund


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