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Pakistan's "dirty air" affecting people's health

A recent global report from the World Health Organisation has painted a dirty picture of Pakistan -- revealing it is the country with the world's most polluted air. Pakistan is plagued by heavy industry and choking traffic, and everyday people are forced to breathe in dangerous pollution.

LAHORE: Thousands of everyday Pakistanis are exposed to high levels of air pollution -- a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) survey revealed that many of Pakistan's cities are "enveloped in dirty air", which is dangerous to breathe.

The impact on health can be both acute and chronic.

Dr Sarfaraz Ahmad, an asthma specialist, said: "Air pollution mostly leads to respiratory tract infections and the people who are facing these conditions constantly, they will develop lungs infections and lung changes in the body, that we call chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases."

Major polluting factors include industrial and domestic dependency on power plants for electricity generation, increasing traffic in cities, and weather.

Pakistani authorities have rejected WHO's findings, claiming them to be baseless and outdated.

Younis Zahid, a punjab environment officer, said: "This report is not authenticated as it was formulated way back in 2011 and disclosed now. Even the data of Lahore and other cities is old.

"I wonder what factors they have considered because the situation at home is much better now. Karachi is indeed an industrial city with a bit of pollution but cities like Quetta have seasonal pollution."

Regardless of the cause, millions of people -- not just in Pakistan -- are suffering. One in eight deaths in the world are the result of breathing in polluted air.

The WHO report stresses individual cities can take local action to improve air quality and that, eventually, good air quality goes hand in hand with economic development. 

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