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Economy

Two-thirds of all air pollution deaths occur in Asia

WHO numbers show the grim consequences of rapid urbanization

Boys play cricket on a smoggy day in Kolkata. India's growing use of coal power threatens to exacerbate the pollution problem.   © Reuters

JAKARTA -- The sight of commuters, their faces hidden behind masks, zipping around on the back of motorcycle taxis is common across Asia. The bikes weave through gridlock in cities like Jakarta and Bangkok, getting the passengers to work on time. The masks, sometimes worn by both driver and passenger, hint that the air they breathe might not be the cleanest. 

Judging from World Health Organization figures released on Wednesday, covering 4,300 cities across 108 countries, the commuters have the right idea. Of an estimated 7 million deaths worldwide per year from air pollution, just over two-thirds take place in Asia, which is home to slightly less than 60% of the global population.

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