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Published: Thursday 31st of October 2013
The primary challenge for humanity is environmental pollution. It cuts across all sectors, affecting everyone and its results cause massive fatalities. The leading cause of environmental pollution is air pollution. It is the release of large numbers of substances, minute particles, harmful particulates and biological materials into the atmosphere. The various human activities and natural causes lead to the discharge of these materials. Air pollution causes many diseases in humans, animals, and crops in the field. This pollution destabilizes the normal co-existence of the various species in the environmental habitat and may even lead to an extinction of species. Research carried out by WHO in 2012 found that seven million people worldwide died out of the consequences of air pollution. The number of those affected brought a significant public outcry and called for urgent measures to curb it. The decrease in air pollution can save many lives. The theme of possible ways of taming air pollution and implementation of preventive mechanisms to downplay its negativities is ongoing through roundtable discussions.
Significant health hazards are closely linked in regions experiencing landscape pollution of air. These health complications are heart problems, breathing difficulties, cancer of the lungs, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and acute respiratory distress syndromes. Stroke and ischemic heart disease are the leading causes of death resulting from air pollution.
Research done in the recent years has documented similar trends of a close relationship between high levels of air pollution and increasing numbers of those affected by cardiovascular problems. Studies done in urban areas indicate the same health problems in most people with reduced levels of lung functions, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and increased levels of mucus production. Increase in cancers especially lung cancer is closely linked with air pollution according to the studies done. PM2.5 causes high mortality rates of lung cancer and cardiovascular problems. These are small particulates that accumulate over time to people inhaling air containing PM2.5. These people spent most their time exposed to this environment. Danish Environmental Research Institute has reported evidence relating other types of cancers including cervical and brain cancer to air pollution other than lung cancer. Central Nervous System problems have also been found to be caused by polluted air. There are levels of disorders like autism spectrum and schizophrenia in children exposed early to high levels of contaminated air.
Countries experiencing the highest mortality rates in the world due to air pollution are those located in average income areas in the Western Pacific Regions and South East Asia. These countries have the highest levels of contaminated air. WHO indicates 3.3 million and 2.6 million deaths annually from indoor and outdoor environments respectively due to polluted air. India is the most polluted country in the world. It records the highest levels of contaminated air leading to high numbers of death from asthma. Apart from India, China is the second most polluted country in the world. According to WHO, more than 500,000 deaths were recorded in 2014 in China from the adverse effects of air pollution. The European Commission statistics has indicated the reduction of life expectancy by more than nine months in European Union countries caused by polluted air. Italy and Benelux are some of these countries that are hardest hit by this situation.
Children below the ages of five years in developing countries and pregnant women are the most affected population group in the world. The complications in pregnant women are due to severe effects caused to the fetus by even little exposure to air pollution. Studies done by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg revealed that exposure of pregnant women to contaminated air results in pregnancy-related problems and permanent effects on the unborn child. The fetus, especially during the first trimester, is very reactive to environmental risk factors.
The studies also found a close correlation between increased inflammation in the intrauterine life and long duration of exposure to contaminated air by pregnant women. These cause preterm births and health complications associated with it. Pregnant women living in regions of contaminated air are twice as much likely to experience intrauterine inflammation than pregnant women residing in areas with controlled air levels. John Hopkins School Researchers detected two decades ago a very reliable signal between high levels of polluted air and increased numbers of preterm births. In recent years, contrary to the studies done long ago, it has been found to be caused by even little exposure to air contaminants.
Apart from health hazard effects, agriculture and weather are also affected in equal measure by air pollution. It destabilizes the typical climate patterns, destroying crops and ruining the texture and fertility of the soil. Polluted air causes reduced harvests in the fields due to crop malnutrition and death of the planted crops. The origin of these unpleasant plant outcomes is due to increased toxic substances in the soil including ammonium, carbon intoxication and free oxidizing radicals. Increased carbon intoxication and destruction of ozone layer caused an abrupt decline in crop production in India. Indians saw their crop production reduce by half in 2010 compared to 1980. Farmers ought to be educated on the real cause of these adverse outcomes and advised not to use pesticides as they are not the leading cause of this decline. The primary link is contaminated air and not pest invasion.
Environmental strategists and activists’ groups in the recent years have confessed to air pollution as their first concern. It is the consistent release of dangerous and toxic substances into the earth’s atmosphere. This pollution causes severe fatalities to unborn babies, the health of animals and agricultural production. The health complications caused by air populations are lung cancer, cervical cancer and brain cancer, breathing problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, cardiovascular complications and acute respiratory distress syndrome.
The adverse effects on the central nervous system include autism disorders and schizophrenia. The highest number of deaths from dirty air results from lung cancer, pneumonia, and heart complications. Regions most affected in the world are those facing economic challenges including both low- and middle-income economies. They are the South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions. India is the most catastrophic stricken country in the world by air pollution. Pregnant women are the most affected population groups in the world. Children below the ages of 5 years in developing countries are also profoundly affected.
Every country in the world needs to take into consideration the severe global threat brought by air pollution. It is the responsibility of everyone to take care of the environment and keep the air pure. WHO has to come up with comprehensive programs that seek to safeguard and reduce the levels of air pollution.