WHO denounces premature deaths from pollution


WHO denounces premature deaths from pollution

Air pollution, like climate change, tops the list of environmental risk factors for human health. To say it is the WHO.

air pollution

Smog is a major health threat

We are all – rightly – focused on fighting the coronavirus , a pandemic that in less than two years has left behind a tragic toll of 4.7 million confirmed deaths.

Meanwhile, quietly, there is another factor that steals millions of years of healthy life from the population, for a total of 7 million premature deaths each year . It is air pollution , officially placed by the World Health Organization (WHO) at the top of the ranking of environmental risks for human health, on a par with climate change .

Breathing smog from childhood can impair lung growth and function , aggravate asthma and promote respiratory infections. In adults, on the other hand, ischemic heart disease and stroke are the main causes of death directly attributable to air pollution.

The most recent scientific evidence suggests that the latter also influences the onset of diabetes and some neurodegenerative diseases , thus putting it on the same level – in terms of danger – of improper diet and cigarette smoking

The new WHO guidelines on pollution

It is with the hope of “saving millions of lives” that WHO has published new guidelines relating to six different pollutants :

  • Two types of atmospheric particulate matter , namely PM₁₀ and PM₂, ₅ . Both can penetrate the lungs, but the second is so thin that it enters the bloodstream and reaches other organs. The so -called fine particles are mainly generated by the combustion of internal combustion engines, heating systems and industrial machinery, but also by agriculture.
  • Ozone (O₃) which is formed mainly in summer and affects large areas, even outside the city.
  • Nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) which stands out because it has a pungent odor and irritates the eyes , throat and respiratory tract.
  • Sulfur dioxide (SO₂) , originated mainly from the combustion of coal and oil. The impact of traffic has greatly decreased over time, thanks to the affirmation of more efficient fuels.
  • Carbon monoxide (CO) , an odorless, colorless, flammable and very toxic gas.

For each of them the concentrations allowed in the atmosphere have been drastically cut compared to the previous edition, dating back to 2005.

Clean air should be a right

These are not just mere numbers: the guidelines in fact also suggest the most effective methods to limit atmospheric particulate matter , inside and outside the houses. Indications that are much needed especially in low and middle-income countries , most severely threatened by air pollution, stressed WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus .

“ Clean air should be a fundamental human right and a necessary condition for healthy and productive societies”; commented WHO Director General for Europe, Hans Henri P. Kluge . “Yet despite some improvements in air quality achieved over the past three decades, millions of people continue to die prematurely, especially among the most vulnerable and marginalized peoples. We know the scale of the problem and we know how to solve it. These updated guidelines provide policy makers with solid evidence and tools to address this long-term health threat. “


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