The air we breathe has become so toxic that it kills millions of people, even more than some of the most deadly diseases in the world, warns the World Health Organization (WHO).
The data of the latest World Health Organization’s report, which focused on the situation of the year of 2012, is more than worrying as the pollution level is at least twice as high as previously estimated. The most affected are the regions of South-East Asia and the Western Pacific Regions.
Indoor pollution is causing more deaths
There have been recorded no less than 5 million deaths due to indoor pollution in the South-East Asia and Western Pacific Regions.
The number of deaths produced by the toxic air in Europe, in high-income regions, is also worrying, with nearly 300,000 deaths.
The results were showing that exposure to indoor air pollution is the most life-threatening. Indoor pollution was accounted for more than 4 million death cases.
Females in developing regions of the world are the most exposed category to the indoor pollution.
‘Poor women and children pay the expensive price of the indoor air pollution because they spend most of their time at home, breathing the smoke and soot from coal-fired and wood-based furnaces,‘ said Dr. Flavia Bustreo, the WHO’s general manager for Family, Women, and Children Health Issues department.
Air pollution kills more than 3 million people globally every year
Environmental pollution kills more than 3 million people around the world, supposedly.
Although the indoor pollution estimates exceed the deaths estimates caused by outdoor pollution, these two are correlated, WHO experts stating that most of the population is exposed to the both types of air pollution.
Diseases associated with pollution
‘The risks of air pollution are now much higher than was known or previously understood, especially with regard to heart disease and stroke. Very few other risk factors have a greater impact on the global health than the air pollution. The evidence points to the need for an action to clean the air we all breathe,’ said Dr. Maria Neira, Director of the WHO’s Department of Public Health and Social Determinants and Environmental Health.
Ischemic heart disease and stroke are at the top of the fatal conditions that have led to deaths, amid exposure to pollution.
However, the toxic air can cause many other conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, acute respiratory infections in children, and lung cancer.
Millions of lives saved through effective strategies
‘Excessive air pollution is, in most cases, the product of unsustainable policies in sectors such as transport, energy, waste management, and industry. In most cases, health strategies will also be more economical in the long run as a result of lower health care costs and climate gains,’ said Dr. Carlos Dora, WHO coordinator for Public Health and Social and Environmental Determinants of Health.
Experts argue that the measures to reduce the air toxicity we all breathe could save millions of lives.
Previous studies focused on the situation in EU countries, however, showed that in some cases, even compliance with the standards imposed by specialized authorities is not effective in protecting the lives of the inhabitants.
The results of a meta-analysis that included 22 research conducted in 13 European countries suggested the need to tighten the European Union rules on the maximum allowable pollution.
Even if the pollution is well below the threshold, the risk of developing diseases with deadly potential is significant, some experts conclude.
A similar group of specialists, who monitored more than 100,000 healthy people from Germany, Sweden, Italy, Denmark, and Finland, came to a similar conclusion:
‘Our results show that exposure to particulate matter implies a significant risk to health, and even a much higher risk than previously estimated. The adverse health effects that occurred at exposure levels below the required limits are alarming. In conclusion, the study supports the claims to reduce these limits,’ said the study coordinator, professor Annette Peters of Helmholtz Zentrum München Institute of Epidemiology II.
‘Ecological’ countries and cities we all should take as models
A number of countries around the world serve as examples of ‘Yes, it is possible!’ thanks to the strategies used to reduce the pollution and the bold goals proposed in this regard.
For example, the capital of Denmark, Copenhagen, plans to completely neutralize the carbon footprint by 2025. Moreover, here is one of the lowest values of this index, in the world. This is not surprising, given that in Copenhagen almost half of the population travels on bicycles. In 2014, Copenhagen has been designated the Green Capital of Europe and has also ranked first in the top of European Smart Cities, made by Dr. Boyd Cohen.
The European Green Capital of 2013, the French city of Nantes, also encouraged bicycling and the use of public transport, by adopting policies and investments in the infrastructure and the public transport segment. In Nantes have also been reintroduced the electric trams.
Estonia is also a model to follow in terms of pollution reduction strategies. The country boasts a well-established public transport system, but also an impressive wooded area that exceeds half of its entire territory.
At the same time, Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, was designated by the WHO as the city with the highest level of air quality, according to Care2.
Sweden can also be taken as an example for the care of air purity. For example, only bio-fuels are used in Malmo city. The city of Stockholm encourages cycling, to the detriment of cars, and provides to its residents a high quality public transport services.
Outdoor air pollution kills more than 3 million people globally every year and if we add to that huge number the 5 million people killed by the indoor pollution, we’ll be able to realize how serious is the pollution issue. Hopefully, soon enough there will be applied some more effective strategies in the most countries of the world, at least as those already applied in Denmark, Sweden, or Estonia.