Health and sustainable development

BreatheLife: air pollution is an invisible killer

BreatheLife is a global campaign led by WHO, the Climate & Clean Air Coalition and the Government of Norway, to raise awareness about the health risks of short-lived climate pollutants, which contribute significantly to global warming and air pollution. The campaign advocates action in the areas of knowledge sharing between cities, increasing monitoring, supporting solutions and educating people.

The BreatheLife campaign stresses both the practical policy measures that cities can implement (such as better housing, transport, waste, and energy systems) and measures people can take as communities or individuals (for example, to stop waste burning, promote green spaces and walking/cycling) to improve our air. Improving vehicle standards, prioritizing clean public and active transit, as well as adopting more efficient stove and fuel alternatives for cooking, lighting and heating are among the actions that can save lives and help save the planet.

It has been estimated that a suite of actions to reduce pollutants could reduce the annual death toll from air pollution. Some 3 million deaths a year are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution. Indoor air pollution can be just as deadly. In 2012, an estimated 6.5 million deaths (11.6% of all global deaths) were associated with indoor and outdoor air pollution together.

Urban air pollution levels also tend to be higher in many low and middle-income cities and in poor neighbourhoods of high-income cities. This means reductions in pollutants can have particularly large health benefits for lower income groups as well as for children, elderly, and women.