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Millions of asthma sufferers need clean air policies

(New York, USA) – On World Asthma Day, Vital Strategies calls upon governments to work together with environmental, public health and other development organizations to deliver clean air policies that would benefit millions of asthma sufferers. An estimated 90 percent of the world’s population breathes air with pollution levels higher than World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, a clear danger to many of the world’s 300 million asthma sufferers. Many of these pollutants – including second hand smoke (SHS), smoke from solid fuels, and industrial and vehicle emissions – are proven triggers for asthma.

José Luis Castro, President and CEO, Vital Strategies, said: “Governments must look beyond supporting the proven clinical and self-management methods of managing asthma, and use environmental measures to reduce exposure to known triggers. The guarantee of clean air is the most basic need for a healthy life, especially for vulnerable people like those with asthma, pregnant women, and children. It’s unacceptable that the many millions of people with asthma, including 14 percent of all the world’s children, are exposed to toxic pollutants in their surroundings that are preventable, environmental triggers.

“The burden is particularly serious in low and middle income countries, and especially where health systems are underdeveloped, access to medications limited and indoor and outdoor air pollution exposures are especially high. For example, high levels of male smoking in these countries increase the risk of exposure to second-hand smoke among women and children. Additionally, too many still lack access to clean household energy and rely on polluting, indoor solid fuel burning for cooking and heating.

“Even in strong health systems, where asthma sufferers have good access to evidence based care and effective, quality assured and affordable medications, most people are still exposed to harmful emissions from vehicles, and industrial and power generation facilities. If the environmental, health, and other development communities joined forces to work with government, we could make a real difference.

“We can do more – in line with the Sustainable Development Goals – to reduce smoking and exposure to SHS. Strong tobacco control policies – particularly smoking bans and high taxes on all tobacco products, including indigenous products like bidis in India or kreteks in Indonesia that are part of an informal, unregulated tobacco sector – can immediately benefit millions who suffer from SHS exposure. We can encourage investment in and the promotion of cleaner, modern fuels and energy for heating and cooking. And we can advocate for air pollution laws backed by systems for strong enforcement and penalties that deliver people’s basic right to breathe clean air.

“In an increasingly urbanized world, cities can lead the way through effective health, housing, and clean air, transport and energy policies. This would protect large numbers of asthma suffers, reducing the harm to current and future generations. Vital Strategies stands ready to play our part.”


About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that seeks to accelerate progress on the world’s most pressing health problems. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies public health, environmental health or tobacco control expert, please contact Tracey Johnston, Vital Strategies, at +44.7889.081.170 or