What is going on here?
The World Health Organisation’s top environmental health expert, Maria Neira, has warned that delays in addressing the impacts of air pollution will have dire consequences for global health. On the eve of COP28, she gave the following warning: “Whether they like it or not – whether they know it or not – the negotiators at Cop are negotiating with our health,”.
What does this mean?
Air pollution consists of harmful gases and particulate matter that have contaminated the air around us. This type of pollution is typically the result of human activity such as burning fossil fuels and is known to have significant impacts on human, animal and plant health. Air pollution aggravates the respiratory systems of human beings, leading to an array of negative health implications. Despite receiving relatively less coverage than other environmental threats, like wildfires, air pollution presents a major environmental and health problem.
Why should we care?
The impacts of air pollution are not limited to particular areas of the planet – they affect everyone. These impacts are cited as the single largest environmental health risk, globally. The fine particulate matter PM2.5, is estimated to cause 400,000 deaths per year across Europe alone. Furthemore, one in three deaths from strokes, lung cancer and chronic respiratory disease globally are caused by air pollution. These statistics do not take into consideration the numerous non-fatal diseases which are caused by air pollution. It is quite possible that the cough you had last winter was partially attributable to air pollution – wherever you may live.
Despite the evident issues associated with air pollution, a unique opportunity has been presented; because the causes of air pollution also contribute to the climate crisis, addressing them will have a two-fold beneficial impact.
- Check the quality of the air near you using this tool.
- Look at our previous articles here.
- Read about India’s recent problems trying to control air pollution here.
- Read about the benefits of low emissions zones here.