According to a report from the International Energy Agency, about 6,5 million people die each year due to air pollution! A 2012 World Health Organization report stated that 3,7 million deaths per year were linked to air pollution. The increase in the number of deaths undoubtedly highlights the magnitude of the problem and indicates the need for urgent action.
According to research, air pollution is becoming the fourth biggest threat to human health after poor diet, smoking and high blood pressure.
According to statistics, deaths are mainly caused by cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute lower respiratory tract infections in children. Thus, air pollution is the most dangerous carcinogen in the world, and it is considered more dangerous than passive smoking.
Many deaths due to air pollution occur in cities that have developed rapidly over the past few decades.
7 of the 15 cities with the highest air pollution rates are in India, a country that has experienced rapid growth in recent years. India relies heavily on coal for its energy needs, often resorting to using the dirtiest types of coal to keep the pace of development going. In India too, there are very few regulations regarding vehicles, and street fires can often be seen occurring due to the incineration of garbage. Because of this, large cities are often shrouded in smog. In New Delhi, due to air pollution, the average life expectancy is reduced by 6 years!
The situation is exacerbated by climate change-induced drought, which is causing more dust particles to rise into the air.
Across India, the vicious cycle of air pollution and climate change is having frightening consequences. For example, Himalayan glaciers provide water for up to 700 million people across the region, but emissions and rising temperatures are slowly causing them to melt. As they shrink, people try to find alternative sources of water, but wetlands and rivers dry up.
The drying up of wetlands is also dangerous because dust particles polluting the air rise from the dried-up areas into the air – which, for example, occurs in the city of Zabol in Iran. A similar problem exists in parts of California as the Salton Sea is drying up due to overexploitation of water sources and climate change. What was once a thriving body of water is turning into a desolate patch, debilitating the population with respiratory illnesses.
Beijing is a city world famous for its highly fluctuating air quality. An artist calling himself Brother Nut has done an interesting experiment there to show the level of air pollution. He walked around the city with a vacuum cleaner sucking in air. After 100 days, he made a brick out of particles sucked up by a vacuum cleaner. Thus, he conveyed to society the disturbing truth: every person, walking around the city, could accumulate similar pollution in his body.
In Beijing, as in all cities, the poor suffer the most from air pollution because they cannot afford expensive purifiers and often work outdoors, where they are exposed to polluted air.
Fortunately, people are realizing that it is simply impossible to put up with this situation any longer. Calls to action are being heard around the world. For example, in China, there is a growing environmental movement, whose members oppose the appalling air quality and the construction of new coal and chemical plants. People are realizing that the future will be in danger unless action is taken. The government is responding to calls by trying to green the economy.
Cleaning up the air is often as simple as passing new emission standards for cars or cleaning up the trash in the neighborhood. For example, New Delhi and New Mexico have adopted tighter vehicle controls to reduce smog.
The International Energy Agency has said that a 7% increase in annual investment in clean energy solutions could solve the problem of air pollution, although more action is likely to be needed.
Governments around the world should no longer just phase out fossil fuels, but begin to drastically reduce their use.
The problem becomes even more urgent when one considers the expected growth of cities in the future. By 2050, 70% of humanity will live in cities, and by 2100, the world’s population could grow by almost 5 billion people.
Too many lives are at stake to keep postponing change. The population of the planet must unite to fight air pollution, and the contribution of each person will be important!