Ex­po­sure to high lev­els of air pol­lu­tion can lead to heart dis­ease, can­cer, says WHO

New Straits Times - - World -

IN­DOOR and out­door air pol­lu­tion killed an es­ti­mated 6.5 mil­lion peo­ple in 2012, the lat­est data from the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) shows.

Ex­po­sure to high lev­els of air pol­lu­tion, es­pe­cially over the long term, can af­fect hu­man re­s­pi­ra­tory and inflammatory sys­tems, and lead to heart dis­ease and can­cer.

Sci­en­tists also say air pol­lu­tion, caused largely by burn­ing fos­sil fu­els, not only con­trib­ute to cli­mate change, but is also ex­ac­er­bated by it, as air stag­na­tion links to warmer, drier conditions al­lowed soot, dust and ozone to build up in the lower at­mos­phere.

Here are key facts about air pol­lu­tion:

AIR pol­lu­tion is re­spon­si­ble for about one in ev­ery nine deaths an­nu­ally, with al­most two-thirds of those deaths in the West­ern Pa­cific and South­east Asia, WHO says;

BY 2040, Asia will ac­count for al­most 90 per cent of the rise in

pre­ma­ture deaths at­trib­ut­able to air pol­lu­tion;

NINETY-FOUR per cent of deaths are due to non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases, such as car­dio­vas­cu­lar prob­lems, stroke, chronic ob­struc­tive pul­monary dis­ease and lung can­cer;

AIR pol­lu­tion in­creases the risk of acute re­s­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tions;

MA­JOR sources of out­door air pol­lu­tion in­clude fuel use by ve­hi­cles, dust from con­struc­tion and land­fill sites, coal-fired power plants, agri­cul­ture and waste-burn­ing;

AIR pol­lu­tion comes in many forms. Two par­ti­cle sizes are widely mon­i­tored: PM10, coarse par­ti­cles of 10 mi­crons or less in di­am­e­ter; and PM2.5, fine par­ti­cles of 2.5 mi­crons or less in di­am­e­ter;

PM2.5, about one-thir­ti­eth of the width of a hu­man hair, can pen­e­trate deep into the lungs and car­dio­vas­cu­lar sys­tem, pos­ing the great­est risks to hu­man health;

ONLY one in 10 peo­ple lives in a city that com­plies with the WHO air qual­ity guide­lines, which is a PM2.5 an­nual av­er­age of 10 g/m3;

THE air pol­lu­tion in Delhi is 12.2 times the WHO safe level, while in Beijing it is 8.5 times higher;

AS mil­lions more peo­ple move to cities in the com­ing decades, the num­ber of peo­ple ex­posed to dan­ger­ous lev­els of air pol­lu­tion will in­crease;

IN 2013, ex­po­sure to out­door and house­hold air pol­lu­tion cost global labour in­come losses of US$225 bil­lion (RM974 bil­lion).

Lost in­come for South Asian coun­tries alone topped US$66 bil­lion;

IT is pro­jected that global health­care costs re­lated to air pol­lu­tion will in­crease to US$176 bil­lion in 2060, from US$21 bil­lion in 2015;

THE an­nual num­ber of lost work­ing days due to sick­ness linked to air pol­lu­tion is pro­jected to reach 3.7 bil­lion for the world in 2060, up from 1.2 bil­lion now; and,

THE cost of air pol­lu­tion — as a re­sult of re­duced labour pro­duc­tiv­ity, ad­di­tional health ex­pen­di­ture and crop yield losses — could lead to an­nual eco­nomic costs of one per cent of global GDP by 2060.


Mex­ico City’s sky­line shrouded in pol­lu­tion on Wed­nes­day. World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion data shows that 6.5 mil­lion peo­ple were killed due to air pol­lu­tion in 2012.

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