25 March 2014 — The World Health Organization has stated that air pollution is responsible for the deaths of seven million people a year globally – one in eight deaths.
The new figures, which were released today [Tuesday] and based on 2012 data, are more than double previous estimates.
They show a stronger link between air pollution and cardiovascular disease, including stroke and ischaemic heart disease, as well as cancer. The WHO said this was additional to air pollution’s role in the development of respiratory diseases.
The new estimates are based on increased knowledge of diseases caused by air pollution as well as better assessment of human exposure to air pollutants through improved measurement and technology.
“The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and strokes,” director of WHO’s Department for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health Dr Maria Neira said.
“Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe.”
The findings are more bad news for those living in Morwell, blanketed in smoke from the Hazelwood open cut coal mine fire, and those in the Hunter Valley, exposed to coal dust from uncovered trains.
See our articles:
- Tim Flannery: what coal pollution means for Morwell
- More people die from air pollution than on the roads, but Newcastle residents must keep breathing coal dust
“Excessive air pollution is often a by-product of unsustainable policies in sectors such as transport, energy, waste management and industry,” WHO coordinator for public health, environmental and social determinants of health Dr Carlos Dora said.
“In most cases, healthier strategies will also be more economical in the long term due to health-care cost savings as well as climate gains.”
A breakdown of outdoor pollution-caused deaths by disease were:
- ischaemic heart disease – 40 per cent
- stroke – 40 per cent
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – 11 per cent
- lung cancer – six per cent
- acute lower respiratory infections in children – three per cent