5 under-recognised impacts of air pollution

(Eco Business, 6 Jun 2019) How are the social costs of air pollution extending beyond affecting one’s health ? World Resources Institute’s Jessica Seddon discusses.

Most of the rising global attention to air pollution focuses on the impacts that ozone, particulate matter and other pollutants have on human health. This is natural; the numbers in the headlines are striking. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that air pollution inside and outside the home is responsible for about 7 million premature deaths worldwide. The majority of these deaths—4.2 million—are associated with ambient (outdoor) pollution. It is a leading environmental risk factor affecting urban and rural populations around the world.

Growing public awareness of the health consequences is encouraging, but we need to look at the bigger picture of what air pollution is doing to our planet and ourselves. The social costs of air pollution—and the social benefits of reducing it—extend far beyond health, including to climate, water, renewable energy and agriculture.

Air pollution affects health

Most people know how much water they should drink– eight glasses per day, or about 2 litres. But do you know how much air you breathe? The average adult inhales and exhales about 7 to 8 litres of air per minute while at rest. That’s a minimum of about 11,000 litres of air per day.

Breathing dirty air affects more than just lungs and causes more than premature death. Air pollution affects almost every organ in the body. A recent study by the Forum of International Respiratory Societies shows that air pollution contributes to everything from diabetes and dementia to fertility problems and childhood leukemia.

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Eco Business, 6 Jun 2019: 5 under-recognised impacts of air pollution