Updated: May 9
Earlier this week, the U.N. Agency reported that almost all of the global population breathes air with high levels of pollutants.
The World Health Organization’s data revealed 99% of the population inhales high amounts of harmful particulate matter (inhalable particles PM2.5 and PM10) such as carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Both indoor and outdoor air are a “major public health concern” according to WHO.
The harmful nitrogen dioxide is mostly human-generated fuel that burns through automobile traffic and commonly found in urban areas. The particulate matter is known to cause asthma and symptoms like coughing, wheezing, difficult breathing, and emergency-room admissions. The highest concentrations of nitrogen dioxide were found in the eastern Mediterranean region, according to WHO.
“Air pollution is the contamination of the indoor and outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere,” WHO said.
Common sources of air pollution include but are not limited to household combustion devices, motor vehicles, industrial facilities, and forest fires. WHO estimates outdoor air pollution kill 4.2 million people each year, while household exposure to smoke (fuels and unkept cookstoves) cause 3.8 million deaths.
Low and middle income countries are more exposed to the air pollution like the Eastern Mediterranean region, the Southeast Asia region, and Africa. The higher rates of health problems in these regions and areas are heavier due to traditional inefficient cooking stoves. Freely gather fuel like wood and animal waste (dung) are also used due to lack of resources to switch to cleaner devices and fuels
WHO’s data believes air pollution poses a major threat to people’s health and Earth’s climate. The prolonged duration and quantity of air pollution increases the possibility of “strokes, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and acute respiratory infections”. Air contaminants like dust, fumes, gas, mist, odor, smoke/vapor are injurious to people if too exposed to these elements.
“After surviving a pandemic, it is unacceptable to still have 7 million preventable deaths and countless preventable lost years of good health due to air pollution,” stated Dr. Maria Neira, head of WHO’s department of environment, climate change and health.
The respiratory tract is the main pathway that impacts people’s health when exposed to contaminants in the air. Reportedly, almost all organs in the human body can be impacted. Some air pollutants are small enough to penetrate deep into the bloodstream through the lungs and circulate throughout the body, potentially causing systematic harm to tissue and cells.
Children, elderly, and pregnant women are at higher risk of diseases generated by air pollution. Air contaminants are associated with birth outcomes like low birth weight, pre-term birth and small gestational age births. Evidence of pollutants impacting diabetes and neurological development in children.
Stay safe and Godspeed, my friends.