Millions Dying from Air Pollution, WHO Reports

By Orig, Thor S. | Manila Bulletin, November 1, 2000 | Go to article overview
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Millions Dying from Air Pollution, WHO Reports

Orig, Thor S., Manila Bulletin

Millions of people die or suffer serious health effects from air pollution, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO figures show an estimated three million people die each year because of air contamination. This health impact represents about five percent of the total 55 million deaths that occur annually in the world.

Further estimates by WHO say it is possible - because of uncertainty in the estimates - that the actual death toll is anywhere between 1.4 and six million every year.

These deaths are caused mainly by respiratory diseases, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary ailment, cardiovascular disease, and cancer of the lungs.

According to WHO officials, many studies consistently show the direct link between mortality rates and daily ambient concentrations of suspended particulate matters that have diameters below 10 um. And life expectancy can be significantly reduced in communities with high levels of particular matter.

We are all unwilling victims of exposure to air pollution. As a matter of fact, it's as old as the use of fire by the first human beings on earth.

Both indoors and outdoors, air pollution is a major environmental health problem affecting both developed and developing nations of the globe. It comes from various sources of dust particles, gases, and smoke or emissions of power plants, automotive vehicles and the like. They may either be caused naturally or by human (anthropogenic) activities. When inhaled, air pollutants affect the lungs and respiratory tract. They can also be taken up and transported by the blood stream throughout the body. Through deposition in the ecosystem, air pollutants of various kinds can also contaminate food and water.

In its latest dispatch, WHO stated that as many as one billion people, mostly women and children, are regularly exposed to levels of indoor air pollution exceeding WHO guidelines by up to 100 times.

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