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WHO slashes guideline limits on air pollution from fossil fuels

Published: 27th Sep, 2021


The World Health Organization has cut its recommended limits for air pollution, for the first time since 2005.

Key highlights

  • The new recommendations targeting pollutants including particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, both of which are found in fossil fuel emissions.
    • NO2: The new limit for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), mainly produced by diesel engines, is now 75% lower.
    • PM 2.5: Under the new guidelines, the WHO halved the recommended limit for average annual PM2.5 level from 10 micrograms per cubic meter to 5.
    • PM 10: It also lowered the recommended limit for PM10 from 20 micrograms to 15.
  • These guidelines not legally-binding.

WHO’s 2005 guideline

  • The 2005 WHO Air quality guidelines offer global guidance on thresholds and limits for key air pollutants that pose health risks.
  • The Guidelines indicate that by reducing particulate matter (PM10) pollution from 70 to 20 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m), we can cut air pollution-related deaths by around 15%.

Air pollution, the greatest environmental threat

  • Air pollution kills at least 7 million people prematurely each year.
  • In 2019, a full 90% of the global population was breathing air considered unhealthy by the 2005 guidelines.
  • India, still have national standards that are looser than those 2005 recommendations.


India last revised its National Ambient Air Quality Standards in 2009 —setting annual averages for

  • PM2.5 (40 ug/m3)
  • PM10 (60 ug/m3)
  • NO2 (40 us/m3)

About the Organization

  • Founded in 1948, WHO is the United Nations agency.
  • It connects nations, partners and people to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable – so that everyone, everywhere can attain the highest level of health.
  • HeadquartersGeneva, Switzerland
  • India is a member state of the South East Asia Region at the WHO.

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