Around 800 people die every hour due to exposure to air pollution, according to the United Nation's General Assembly. Globally, 7 million people, including 600,000 children, die each year due to the environmental crisis.
The report presented at the Human Rights Council in Geneva revealed that more than 90 per cent (6 billion people) of the world's population live in regions that exceed World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for healthy ambient air quality.
Calling air pollution a "silent, sometimes invisible, prolific killer" which affected women and girls more than men, David Boyd, special rapporteur on human rights and the environment said, "every hour, 800 people are dying, many after years of suffering, from cancer, respiratory illnesses or heart disease directly caused by breathing polluted air," he said, before highlighting that these deaths were preventable.
Envisaging the theme of tackling the global threat of air pollution, the United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres called upon governments to step towards "green economy".
"It is time to act decisively. My message to governments is clear: tax pollution; end fossil fuel subsidies; and stop building new coal plants. We need a green economy, not a grey economy," he said.
The theme of "Beat Air Pollution" was chosen by this year's host country, China. The World Environment Day celebrated every year on June 5th across 100 countries, has been the designated day chosen by the United Nations, since 1974, in addressing the global crisis on public platforms.
Fine particles present in the pollutant air, that affects the cardiovascular system causes diseases such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections.
UN statistics indicate that an estimated 1.2 million premature deaths occur in India each year due to air pollution. Having one of the highest exposure levels to PM2.5 fine particulate pollution in the world, more than 77 per cent of India's population is exposed to severe air pollution levels.
A recent report, 'State of Global Air' released by Health Effects Institute (HEI), found that major sources of PM2.5 in India include household burning of solid fuels; dust from construction, roads, and other activities; industrial and power plant burning of coal; brick production; transportation; and diesel-powered equipment.
The report also said that in 2017, the annual PM2.5 exposures were highest in South Asia. Nepal, Countries such as India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan were reported to have the highest exposures. Bhutan's exposure level was the lowest in the region but was still above the WHO's guideline.
It is estimated that around 100 per cent of the population of China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Bangladesh are living in areas above the guideline.
The World Bank estimated that air pollution costs global economies more than $5 trillion every year in welfare costs and $225 billion in lost income.