WHO: 6 million Asians die annually due to air pollution

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FILE PHOTO

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Pollution in Asia is worsening.

The World Heath Organization (WHO) said seven million people worldwide die annually from air pollution — over six million of them were recorded in Asia.

Most of these cases are in China and India — the two highly polluted countries — but experts warned the Philippines may not be far behind.

EDSA and Taft Avenue are among the deadliest places in Metro Manila, in terms of air quality.

Experts said continued exposure to smog in busy streets like these is why many Asians in various cities in the region are dying young, as they urge for quick action.

Non-government group Clean Air Asia is working with local and national policy makers to improve air quality in six areas: air quality standards and monitoring, emissions inventories and modelling, health and other impacts, air quality communication, clean air plans and governance.

"For me, it's not acceptable from now that anybody dies prematurely, children or elderly suffering because of asthma, because of cancer, because of air pollution. So there's an urgency to air pollution to know that diesel exhaust for instance gives you cancer. So we need to do something about it," said Bjarne Pedersen, executive director of Clean Air Asia.

Dante Guerrero has been a jeepney driver for 34 years.

He confirmed daily exposure to pollution is taking its toll on his health.

"Marami na! Marami nang nagkaroon ng tb (tubercolosis) dyan eh. Meron na kami dyan dalawa na sa hospital pa eh syempre 'yon ang ano nila siguro dahil dito na sa usok," said Guerrero.

[Translation: "There have been many reported cases of tubercolosis. Two of my colleagues have been hospitalized, maybe because of polluted air."]

Dr. Hans Ramos, a pulmonologist from Medical City, said pollution can lead to illnesses, such as tuberculosis and lung cancer.

"The most vulnerable patients would include children and the elderly because children their lungs are still trying to develop while the elderly, their lungs have already deteriorated," said Ramos.

Juan Miguel Cuna, director of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) said there is much to do to improve air quality

"I want a significant improvement in the public transport system because we've had a chance to see public transport in other countries. And it significantly reduces the use of vehicles on the road and it will definitely help improve the air quality and its convenient," said Cuna.

It's a clear and present crisis facing the next administration — and it can even be an election issue for the next president.