Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Air pollution now the world's greatest health risk

Many people dispute the notion that society should focus on reducing vehicle and factory emissions to combat climate change. You see it all the time, like from this guy:


While those employed in the coal industry don't have great job prospects, the benefits of moving away from dirty fuels are substantial and immediately felt. As to evidence of this, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a study which found that ~7 million people died in 2012 due the effects of outdoor and indoor air pollution. Accordingly, they find that "air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk." Here's more on the effects of this pollution:
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.
They go on to note that "3.7 million deaths were attributable to [outdoor] air pollution" worldwide in 2012. While 88% of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries, a staggering 94,000 deaths occur in North America were due to air pollution in 2012. Perhaps if the vague, hard-to-notice climate change doesn't make you wonder about our effect on our environment, then that statistic will.

So what do the deaths eventually come from? Here's the breakdown for 2012:


Acute lower respiratory disease and stroke appear to account for 80% of these deaths. With statistics like this, wouldn't you think that raising the gas tax would be something we'd be talking about as a society? Or maybe putting a price on the pollutants factories emit? While I understand that some people aren't going to grasp the implications of climate change, taking no action to stop 94,000 North American deaths a year is insane.

Note: thanks to this blog for the pointer.

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