02 May 2018 Press release Air

UN Environment challenges citizens to "Breathe Life"

  • UN Environment launches the BreatheLife Challenge as WHO release latest data on air pollution levels for more than 4,000 cities in over 100 countries.
  • WHO estimates that around 7 million people die every year while 9 out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air.
  • The BreatheLife challenge will give people the chance to come together and collectively make a difference on this massive public health crisis.

May 2, 2018 – UN Environment has today launched the BreatheLife Challenge and calls upon citizens to reduce their contribution to air pollution by committing to walk, bike or take public transport for 26 miles during the month of May. The initiative comes on the heels of a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO), which found alarming trends in the rise and persistence of air pollution worldwide. The new data shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants, resulting in an estimated 7 million deaths worldwide each year.

In the report released this week, WHO notes that ambient air pollution alone caused some 4.2 million deaths in 2016 and further recognizes that air pollution is a critical risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), causing an estimated one-third (24 per cent) of adult deaths from heart disease, 25 per cent from stroke, 43 per cent from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 29 per cent from lung cancer.

“These latest findings are a stark reminder for cities and governments worldwide that polluted air remains the single greatest environmental threat to human health,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “Today’s launch of the BreatheLife Challenge is an opportunity to mobilize individual actions and raise awareness around the steps we can all take to make sure that the air we breathe is safe.”

Cities across the globe and private sector partners including the walking app Pacer and the bike sharing company Mobike have also joined the challenge and will be asking millions of their users to sign up to help create cleaner air where they live. Using toolkits available on the BreatheLife website, Citizens can take the challenge, promote the challenge by sharing on various platforms or engage with UN Environment and WHO for more tips.



About BreatheLife:

BreatheLife is a joint campaign led by the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Environment and the Climate & Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) to mobilize cities and individuals to protect our health and planet from the effects of air pollution.


About UN Environment:

UN Environment is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UN Environment works with governments, the private sector, the civil society and with other UN entities and international organisations across the world.



For more information, please contact:

Keith Weller, News and Media Unit, UN Environment, keith.weller[at]un.org