By Team

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The World Health Organization has updated its air quality guidance for the first time in 15 years.

The WHO is slashing the recommended levels for air pollution, saying the harmful effects of dirty air kick in at lower levels than first thought.

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“Because of air pollution, the simple act of breathing contributes to 7 million deaths a year,” said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Health officials say polluted air increases the risk of conditions like pneumonia, asthma, heart disease, stroke and cancer.

The WHO is urging nations to cut levels of several pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter, which can travel through the lungs and directly into the blood stream.

“Clean air is a political choice and a societal responsibility,” said Hans Kluge, the WHO regional director for Europe.

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Scientists say some of the most dangerous pollutants are fossil fuels, burning from cars and power plants.

Last week, a court in Indonesia found government officials guilty of environmental negligence for failing to tackle air pollution in the capital and ordered them to clean up the smog.

Health experts say drastic cuts to air pollution worldwide could add two years to our lives.

The WHO is now calling on governments to follow its formula for a cleaner future.

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The guidelines come ahead of a key climate change conference in Scotland next month. Team