WHO Report: Air pollution poses worldwide health risks

Kartik Nath, Staff Writer

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Ambient, or outdoor, air pollution is the greatest threat to human health across the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2018 nine in 10 people are exposed to air with dangerous levels of pollutants. One major contributor to air pollution is fossil fuel production, which has devastated the planet in the form of climate change.

Dr. Maria Neira, WHO Director of Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health has noted that, “The true costs of climate change is felt in our hospitals and in our lungs.”

According to Neira, the health burden of polluting energy sources is so high that moving to cleaner and more sustainable choices for energy supply, transport and food systems effectively “pays for itself.” According to the WHO, outdoor air pollution is responsible for: 29 percent of deaths and disease from lung cancer, 17 percent of all deaths and disease from acute lower respiratory infections, 24 percent of all deaths from stroke, 25 percent of all deaths and diseases from ischemic heart disease and 43 percent of all deaths and disease from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Pollutants in the air penetrate the human body and continuously damage vital organs.

Many experts feel that humans need to find effective solutions, in the form of renewable energy production to sustain the body’s essential functions. Countries will reap the social and economic benefits, in the form of improvements in human health. According to the WHO, in the top 15 countries that produce the most greenhouse gas emissions, the cost of health consequences due to air pollution is estimated to cost more than 4 percent of the gross domestic product.

The American Lung Association gives Schenectady a C in ozone pollution.

Note from the Science and Technology Editor:

This term the Sci/Tech section of the Concordiensis will feature weekly articles on the World Health Organization’s list of the greatest threats to human health. The list is published annually and includes the 10 public health issues most likely to impact human health. Keep reading the Sci/Tech section to learn more about issues like vaccine hesitancy, influenza, and limited access to primary care.