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The Forum of International Respiratory Societies joins ‘call for urgent action’ at the first WHO Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health

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The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) is attending the first ever global event to focus on both air pollution and health. The Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health takes place from 30 October to 1 November in Geneva bringing together global, national and local partners to share knowledge and mobilise action for cleaner air and better health globally.

Some 91 percent of people worldwide breathe unhealthy air, resulting in about 7 million deaths annually.

According to the latest trends:

• Ambient air quality in most cities exceeds recommended WHO levels, in some cities by a factor of >10.
• Household air pollution is a leading killer in rural and urban homes. Nearly half of the world’s population still uses polluting fuels and technologies to meet their most basic household energy needs.
• One-quarter or more of deaths from the leading NCDs (stroke, lung cancer, heart attacks and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) are due to air pollution.
• Health impacts are largest among those who are most heavily exposed, women, children, the ill, the elderly and the poor.
• Tackling air pollution reduces emissions of both short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) and long-lived CO2. This can also help reduce health risks related to weather extremes, sea level rise, drought and food production.
• Affordable strategies exist to reduce air pollution emissions from transport, energy, waste, housing and industrial sectors, resulting in massive public health benefits.

In a recent article for the Guardian, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director general said “The world has turned the corner on tobacco. Now it must do the same for the ‘new tobacco’ – the toxic air that billions breathe every day. No one, rich or poor, can escape air pollution. It is a silent public health emergency.”

“Despite this epidemic of needless, preventable deaths and disability, a smog of complacency pervades the planet. This is a defining moment and we must scale up action to urgently respond to this challenge.” said Tedros.

The first two days of the conference will present evidence, as well as identifying gaps and solutions. The third day will be a High-Level Action Day which will feature a ‘call for urgent action’ with an agreement on a target for reducing the 7 million deaths a year due to air pollution by 2030, as a contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

“The WHO Conference on Air Pollution is an important follow-up to the 2018 United Nations High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases, which for the first time highlighted air pollution as a great health risk. Air pollution is not only an enormous health problem, but it is addressable and reducing it can give prompt benefits.” said Dean Schraufnagel, MD, Executive Director of FIRS.

Find out more about the The Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health.

About the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS)

The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) is an organisation comprised of the world's leading international respiratory societies working together to improve lung health globally: American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST), American Thoracic Society (ATS), Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR), Asociación Latino Americana De Tórax (ALAT), European Respiratory Society (ERS), International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (The Union), Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS), Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), and the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD).

The goal of FIRS is to unify and enhance efforts to improve lung health through the combined work of its more than 70,000 members globally