If the risk air pollution poses to the planet hasn’t sparked major change, maybe the newly released numbers on the dangers it poses to humans will.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that in 2012, over seven million people died because of air pollution, making it the eighth leading cause of death.
“Risks from air pollution are far greater than previously thought, particularly in terms of heart disease and strokes,” explained Dr Maria Neira, director of WHO’s department of public health, environmental and social determinants of health. “Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution. The evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we breathe.”
Out of those seven million, 5.9 million deaths took place in India and other countries in Southeast Asia and the Western pacific. In those areas, crop waste, coal and charcoal are used to cook food in open fires and when done indoors, that can lead to high levels of smoke that penetrate the lungs.
The main direct causes of death resulting from air pollution were pneumonia in children, stroke, lung cancer, ischaemic heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
“Unless we in India respond immediately to this major public health challenge, we stand the risk of condemning three generations to the ill health and untimely death because of air pollution,” said Dr K S Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India. “It will not suffice to say that pollution is a side-effect of development.”
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