More early deaths from unhealthy air prompt call for stepped-up response

Air pollution is causing even more deaths than previously thought prompting a call for a stepped-up response.

Three-point-seven million people are dying yearly from the effects of polluted air outdoors. Even more – almost four-and-a-third million – can be attributed to the effects of health-damaging indoor air pollution. That’s eight million; up from 7-plus-million as of 2012, according to information provided by the World Health Organization (WHO). That makes this situation a far more urgent one.

Human_respiratory_system-NIH[1] (340x226)Either more people have died or reporting methods are becoming more accurate and refined, or it could be a combination of both. Either way, the situation appears way more pervasive and more dire and as such, should be considered a crisis if such is not the case already.

The World Health Organization, for one, believes it is, apparently. In the WHO’s May 26, 2015 “World Health Assembly closes, passing resolutions on air pollution and epilepsy” news release, the organization emphasized: “Delegates at the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution to address the health impacts of air pollution – the world’s largest single environmental health risk.”

To repeat: Air pollution is the planet’s single largest environmental health risk. Its effects are devastating. These effects are of a mostly long-term nature occurring over long periods of time, in other words.

To continue, the WHO stressed: “Every year 4.3 million deaths occur from exposure to indoor air pollution and 3.7 million deaths are attributable to outdoor air pollution.” It’s significant.

That this is the reality the alarm bells should be sounding in even greater numbers and ringing more loudly.

More pointedly, the WHO declared: “The resolution highlights the key role national health authorities need to play in raising awareness about the potential to save lives and reduce health costs, if air pollution is addressed effectively. It also stresses the need for strong cooperation between different sectors and integration of health concerns into all national, regional and local air pollution-related policies. It urges Member States to develop air quality monitoring systems and health registries to improve surveillance for all illnesses related to air pollution; promote clean cooking, heating and lighting technologies and fuels; and strengthen international transfer of expertise, technologies and scientific data in the field of air pollution.”

Finally, “The resolution asks the WHO Secretariat to strengthen its technical capacities to support Member States in taking action on air pollution. This includes further building capacity to: implement the ‘WHO air quality guidelines’ and ‘WHO indoor air quality guidelines; conduct cost-benefit assessment of mitigation measures; and advance research into air pollution’s health effects and effectiveness. At the Sixty-ninth World Health Assembly, WHO will propose a road map for an enhanced global response by the health sector that reduces the adverse health effects of air pollution,” the WHO stated.

For all those convinced that air quality around the globe is improving, the number of premature deaths worldwide attributable to air pollution’s effects should reflect this. Instead, the opposite is transpiring – the numbers of such deaths are growing.

If you ask me, I don’t think there is a more conclusive picture that could be painted.

Image above: U.S. National Institutes of Health: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

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