According to Michael Brauer, Professor at University of British Columbia, air pollution is responsible for more ill health than malaria and there is quite a lot of evidence of air pollution being linked to diabetes and premature birth.
That’s a pretty shocking statement, am I right?
The World Health Organization estimates that 2012 around seven million people died as a result of air pollution exposure. To put that in perspective, that’s about one in eight of total global deaths.
So how is it that a particle floating in the air that is 2.5 microns thick (keep in mind that a strand of your hair is 50 microns thick) can contribute to some of the world’s most deadly diseases?
Well, let’s take a look at the top three air pollutants according to John Volckens, Environmental and Civil Engineering Professor, and what these
- Particulate matter: Particles that are about 2.5 microns thick. We’re talking really small.
- Ozone: a pollutant that is formed in the atmosphere as a result of our energy usage. It is also naturally occurring but most of the ozone found on the planet is due to human activity sources.
- Organic chemicals: They include particles such as Nitrogen Dioxide and Mercury in the air. Most of these pollutants are coming from the fact that we need to burn fossil fuels and energy. Our use of fossil fuels and the energy is one of our number one reasons that we have air pollution in the country.
These three items aren’t relegated to any particular area – they touch us all, affect us all. Air pollution affects everyone from residents in China to the citizens of Mexico City. According to BBC, air pollutions levels were the worst in Asia, South America and Africa.
You’re a global citizen, but why should you care?
“Because it affects every single person on the planet. You can’t choose the air you breathe and so everyone should be concerned with what they put in their bodies. With every breath you take, you’re putting air pollution into your body,” said Volckens.
Good news for you global inhabitants: conditions are improving.
Exposure to solid fuels (used in cooking and warming) in Brazil has decreased to 20 percent.
In China, India and eastern Europe, they are looking at removing coal as an energy source to keep air pollution levels low.
According to Brauer, this is to keep the disease burden from air pollution the same as it is today because we will probably have to cut air pollution by half just to keep things the way they are for the future.
The world is at our fingertips, but our fate is in our lungs.
“The good news that life expectancy is increasing in almost all parts of the world, we are living longer we are living healthier,” said Brauer.