Everyday, a new headline comes to my attention about the hazards of air pollution. Most recently, I read that an exposure to high levels of air pollution during pregnancy may increase the risk of a mother delivering her baby before the 37th week of pregnancy.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that substandard air quality is responsible for 7 million deaths around the world. (Tweet this) Qualifying air pollution as a “global health emergency,” it ties ramifications to economic repercussions.
Dr. Maria Neira, Director of the Department of Public Health and Environment at the World Health Organization, has stated that the new stats on air pollution are evidence of a looming “public health emergency” that will impact societies around the world. She noted definitively, “The cost will be enormous.”
A vocal handful of elected representatives in the United States have consistently insisted that the country needs to reject EPA regulations in order to maintain economic stability and growth. The WHO report stands as a direct refutation of that theory. Apparently, Americans don’t have the corner on climate denial. In 2014, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron called air pollution “a naturally occurring weather phenomenon.” He was roundly slapped down by the European Commission.
As urbanization continually expands, the situation worsens. A paper published in the international science journal, Nature, looked at the number of premature deaths caused by air pollution and the impact on locations and populations. There is unfailingly a link between the effects of air pollution and increased medical costs within national healthcare spending. Resulting illnesses also account for reduced work days and productivity.
A few global locales to watch:
In the United Sates, coal-burning plants cause one in seven premature deaths. In Utah, there has been research on the connection between air pollution and the STEMI heart attack, considered the worst type. Hearts vessels are impacted on bad air days, when the heart has to pump harder. As a result, more show people show up in ERs for chest pain and heart attacks.
In the West London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, denizens are fully aware that 15 % of the area’s deaths are a result of the nitrogen oxide in the air pollution. Another 8.1 percent of deaths are from the inhalation of small particulate matter.
Haifa, Israel is home to a high amount of petrochemical plants. Those sitings have led to elevated rates of cancer, with lymph node and lung cancer predominating. Breathing complications were reported in babies and young children. Newborns were tracked as having both smaller body weights and smaller heads than those born in the rest of the country.
Kolkata, India (formerly called Calcutta) is known as both the “diesel” capital and the “lung cancer” capital. Particulate matter readings show levels close to 2.7 times the designated safety limit.
Mumbai, India has such a poor air quality that traffic police have requested a 30 percent pay raise. The city has twice the amount of “allowable” particulate matter.
Beijing, China is renowned for its image of people wearing protective masks to cope with the pollution that emanates from car exhaust, dust, and coal burned for electricity. (China is the number one coal-burning nation, with America coming in second). A 2015 study found that annually, 1.6 million people die from air pollution in China.
My new favorite tool is the Environmental Performance Index (EPI). It compiles national evaluations based on the safeguard of ecosystems and human health. Country rankings were illuminating. The 2016 top five countries (out of 180) were Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark and Slovenia. Finland has committed to becoming a “carbon-neutral society.” Their stated goal is to have 38 percent of their energy derived from renewables by 2020.
France came in at 10, the United Kingdom at 12, the United States at 26, Russia at 32, China at 109, India at 141, and Somali at 180.
Globally, in cities, air pollution kills 3.3 million people. To be a world leader, and protect American families, we are going to have to step up our fight against air pollution.