In new estimates, WHO (World Health Organization) reports that in 2012 around 7 million people died – one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure. This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk. Reducing air pollution could save millions of lives.
* Since particulate air pollution is the primary health risk it should be a primary focus for improving global public health
* particulates also impact global warming by making ice and surface darker which cause more heat to be absorbed
* 80% of the warming effect of carbon dioxide is attributed to particulates
* particulates can be mitigated for 20 times lower cost than the same warming impact of carbon dioxide
* getting smoke free cookers to people in the developing world will save millions of lives
* new and old cars and trucks need to have devices that reduce particulates
City scale water spraying from skyscrapers and towers is something that can be deployed in 2-4 years to blunt the worst air pollution days and save lives and improve health while waiting for other slower pollution reduction measures to be deployed.
Fixing air pollution is one of the quickest ways to save the most lives at the lowest cost and the fastest way to reduce global warming. If someone were seriously concerned about global warming then particulates and soot should be the first and primary focus because it would have the biggest and fastest impact. Carbon dioxide mitigation costs 20 times more and takes decades longer to bend the temperature curve.
A package of 16 measures could, if fully implemented across the globe, save close to 2.5 3.7 million lives a year; avoid crop losses amounting to 32 million tonnes annually and deliver near-term climate protection of about half a degree C by 2040.
Fixing soot would be as good as fixing 80% of the CO2 problem and could be done for 10 to 20 times lower cost, it would save about 5 million lives that are already known to be lost each year and it would impact climate about 30 to 50 years faster than CO2 fixes.
In particular, the new data reveal a stronger link between both indoor and outdoor air pollution exposure and cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes and ischaemic heart disease, as well as between air pollution and cancer. This is in addition to air pollution’s role in the development of respiratory diseases, including acute respiratory infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.
The new estimates are not only based on more knowledge about the diseases caused by air pollution, but also upon better assessment of human exposure to air pollutants through the use of improved measurements and technology. This has enabled scientists to make a more detailed analysis of health risks from a wider demographic spread that now includes rural as well as urban areas.
Regionally, low- and middle-income countries in the WHO South-East Asia and Western Pacific Regions had the largest air pollution-related burden in 2012, with a total of 3.3 million deaths linked to indoor air pollution and 2.6 million deaths related to outdoor air pollution.
Indoor (household) air pollution by region
After analysing the risk factors and taking into account revisions in methodology, WHO estimates indoor air pollution was linked to 4.3 million deaths in 2012 in households cooking over coal, wood and biomass stoves. The new estimate is explained by better information about pollution exposures among the estimated 2.9 billion people living in homes using wood, coal or dung as their primary cooking fuel, as well as evidence about air pollution’s role in the development of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and cancers.
In the case of outdoor air pollution, WHO estimates there were 3.7 million deaths in 2012 from urban and rural sources worldwide.
Many people are exposed to both indoor and outdoor air pollution. Due to this overlap, mortality attributed to the two sources cannot simply be added together, hence the total estimate of around 7 million deaths in 2012.
ncluded in the assessment is a breakdown of deaths attributed to specific diseases, underlining that the vast majority of air pollution deaths are due to cardiovascular diseases as follows:
Outdoor air pollution-caused deaths – breakdown by disease:
40% – ischaemic heart disease;
40% – stroke;
11% – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD);
6% – lung cancer; and
3% – acute lower respiratory infections in children.
Indoor air pollution-caused deaths – breakdown by disease:
34% – stroke;
26% – ischaemic heart disease;
22% – COPD;
12% – acute lower respiratory infections in children; and
6% – lung cancer
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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