When we think about air pollution, we think about black smoke coming out of stacks in a grey, industrial area in a developing country. And that is also the case. But not only. Air pollution comes in different forms and not always visible to the human eye.
Origin of World Health Day
To raise awareness about the need to preserve public health and the environment, the United Nations’ First World Health Assembly was held 1948 and agreed to celebrate the World Health Day every 7th of April, every year from 1950 onwards, as an aware-increasing conmemorative day. The World Health Day is an opportunity to create awareness regarding a global problem and it’s important to understand the relationship between pollution and health, and how air pollution in particular affects human health and the environment.
Industrial processes and types of pollutants
Industrial processes worldwide generate emissions, such as carbon monoxide (CO), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), dioxins, furans and VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds), which are particularly hazardous for human health and for the environment. Other pollutants constituting a hazard for human health are Particulate Matter (PM) and Ozone (O3). Some of those chemicals, when released into the atmosphere, contribute to generating smog as well as acid rain, and so they are partly responsible for increasing pollution worldwide.
Short-term pollution’s effects
Air pollution affects more than 200 million people worldwide.
According to WWF, short-term exposure to air pollution can cause the following effects on human health: eye, nose and throat irritation, upper respiratory infections, nausea, allergic reactions, headaches, etc. It can also aggravate existing respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
Long-term pollution’s effects
Regarding long-term exposure to outdoor air pollution, it can cause chronic respiratory diseases, lung cancer, heart disease, as well as acute respiratory infections in the case of children.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), air pollution is responsible for 29% of all deaths and diseases from lung cancer worldwide. It is also responsible for 17% of all deaths and diseases from acute lower respiratory infection, and for 24% of all deaths from stroke.
It is also estimated that 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide are linked somehow to air pollution, mainly regarding respiratory and heart diseases.
Taking those discouraging data into account, we as society must find global solutions to the growing public health problems related to air pollution. Many of those solutions must come from industries and manufacturing plants, who need to be fully involved in order to substantially reduce emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere for a safer, healthier environment worldwide.