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Air pollution on the planet is reaching endemic proportions

Air pollution on the planet is reaching endemic proportions

Air pollution is a powerful killer. Do you need proof? Consider these facts: In the United States alone, about 200,000 people succumb to ailments caused or exacerbated by toxic air. Air pollution has been linked to a variety of debilitating health conditions, from coronary heart disease to strokes.

It's not just the United States that has victims of air pollution that affects people's health and lives. In notoriously polluted cities like New Delhi in India, chronic levels of air pollution often ruin the lives of locals, especially the poor. Often times, the toxic air even forces schools to close.

In fact, in New Delhi, exposure to airborne pollutants, especially fine particles known as PM2.5, can shorten a local's life expectancy by up to 17 years. "Currently, Delhi residents are breathing around 25 times more toxic air than the limit allowed according to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines," notes India Today.

And things will get even worse. Unbridled urbanization and the continued burning of fossil fuels are increasing the content of minute pollutants in the air in much of the world, especially in India.

“Air pollution is the fifth largest risk factor for mortality worldwide,” says the American Health Effects Institute's 2019 Global Air Condition Report. “It is responsible for more deaths than malnutrition, alcoholism and physical inactivity. Every year more people die from diseases related to air pollution than from injuries caused by traffic or malaria ”.

In just one year, in 2017, 1.2 million Indians died due to ailments caused by air pollution. “Globally, it is estimated that air pollution (PM 2.5, ozone and household emissions) has contributed to approximately 4.9 million deaths: 8.7% of all deaths globally and 5.9% of all years of life lost. by disability, in 2017 ”, says the report.

However, that same year, China, another country with chronically high levels of air pollution, saved hundreds of thousands of lives thanks to policies aimed at reducing the content of fine particles in the air of urban areas. New regulations on industrial emissions and the promotion of clean fuels have served to reduce the scope of pollutants in the air in China, according to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) .

As recently as 2013, Beijing had concentrations of PM2.5 that were 40 times higher than the levels recommended by the WHO. That year, however, several far-reaching clean air policies were introduced across the country, leading to “significant decreases” in PM2.5 levels in 2017. New standards were set for thermal power plants and boilers. industrial. Highly polluting aging factories were closed. New vehicle emission rules were enacted.

"Our study confirms the effectiveness of China's recent clean air actions, and the measure-by-measure assessment provides insight into future clean air policymaking in China and other developing and polluting countries," the researchers write.

With foresight and effective long-term policies, air pollution can be controlled, they stress.

Video: Air Pollution and Climate Change: Sustainability Challenges. Noelle Selin. TEDxMIT (October 2020).