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Vulnerability to air pollution in Latin America and the Caribbean region

Air pollution creates high costs for society. Each year, air pollution causes an estimated 500,000 to 1 million premature deaths worldwide, with costs equivalent to about two percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Recent Bank studies in Colombia, Peru, Guatemala, and El Salvador estimated that the cost of outdoor air pollution is equivalent to approximately one percent of national GDP. A relatively recent World Bank study of six cities in developing countries found that the social costs of all environmental impacts amount to a total of US$3.8 billion, of which health impacts account for 68 percent. Recent estimates by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) concluded that more than 100 million people in Latin American cities are exposed to levels of air pollution that exceed the recommended standards. Moreover, according to the World Health Organisation Global Burden of Disease Report (2002) the impact of outdoor air pollution in Latin America is 35,000 annual premature deaths and 276,000 years of life lost (adjusted by disability).

This study promotes the concept of sustainable transport, energy, and air quality aimed at meeting the needs of many of the region’s vulnerable urban conglomerations. Through an ‘Air Quality Map’ country-level estimates of the cost of environmental degradation to set priorities for mainstreaming environment in the policy decision-making process in Latin American and Caribbean countries.

Download the document here: Vulnerability to air pollution in Latin America and the Caribbean region