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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Nearly nine in 10 people living in cities around the world — or about 2.5 billion people — are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution annually, according to a new study published in The Lancet Planetary Health.

Why it matters: The study, led by George Washington University researchers, shows the tangible health impacts of a high concentration of air pollution.

  • They estimate there were at least 1.8 million excess deaths linked to the inhalation of fine particulate matter in 2019.
  • "Avoiding the large public health burden caused by air pollution will require strategies that not only reduce emissions but also improve overall public health to reduce vulnerability," said lead author Veronica Southerland.

Of note: A second GW-led study published in the journal on Wednesday, found nearly 2 million cases of asthma in children are linked to traffic-related nitrogen dioxide air pollution. Two in three of those cases were in urban areas.

Go deeper

Jan 11, 2022 - Health

Why we need to wear better masks

Data: Gholamhossein Bagheri and Eberhard Bodenschatz/Max Planck Institute; Chart: Will Chase and Annelise Capossela/Axios; Note: study examined FFP2 masks, which we denote as N95 here, given their similar performance.

With the Omicron variant causing infections to surge to record levels, masking is more important than ever — and increasing evidence indicates the quality of mask makes a significant difference.

The big picture: Fitted particle-filtering masks like N95s are up to 75 times more effective at preventing infection with COVID-19 than surgical masks, according to a study published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

2 hours ago - World

Biden will move U.S. troops to Eastern Europe "in the near term"

President Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews on Jan. 28. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said on Friday he plans to move U.S. troops to Eastern European and NATO countries “in the near term.”

Driving the news: “Not too many” U.S. troops, Biden added in remarks to reporters at Joint Base Andrew upon returning from a trip to Pennsylvania. 

Updated 3 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a potentially historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.