Long term exposure to pollution is known to have many adverse health effects. It can lead to strokes, heart attacks, lung cancer, lung disease and even low birth weight in infants. Studies have indicated that it could be to blame for as many as one in six premature deaths around the world, and now, a new report has shown that a worryingly high number of individuals are being but at risk but high levels of air pollution every year.

According to the report, over 95% of the global population are exposed to long term, dangerous levels of air pollution. This exposure contributed to 6.1 million premature deaths in 2016 alone, making it the fourth highest cause of death around the world after high blood pressure, poor diet and smoking.

Bob O’Keefe, vice president of HEI, who produced the report, said in a statement: “Air pollution takes a huge personal toll worldwide, making it difficult to breathe for those with respiratory disease, sending the young and old to hospital, missing school and work, and contributing to early death. The trends we report show real progress in some parts of the world — but serious challenges remain to eliminate this avoidable affliction.”

As well as air pollution, the report also looked at the effects of indoor pollution. Although the number of people relying on solid fuels, like wood or charcoal, for cooking and heating their homes has fallen, an estimated 2.4 billion individuals were exposed to this type of pollution in 2016. That’s a total of one in three people globally, the majority of whom were living in low to middle income countries.

Those in low to middle income countries were most at risk from both indoor and outdoor pollution, and this combined exposure is continuing to drive the high number of deaths. Despite China having made some progress to combat pollution, there are still concerns over the health risks in other Asian countries. Pakistan, Bangladesh and India have seen the biggest increases since 2010, and the WHO have issued warnings over these risks, particularly in rural areas.

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