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Outdoor Air Pollution

Out door air pollution Kristen Morith Unsplash

It’s a killer!

It is estimated to have caused 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide per year in 2016 according to the WHO – What is it?

Its outdoor air pollution – a major environmental health problem affecting everyone.

This mortality is due to exposure to fine particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less in diameter (PM2.5), which cause cardiovascular and respiratory disease, and cancers.

People living in low- and middle-income countries disproportionately experience the burden of outdoor air pollution with 91% of the premature deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries, and the greatest burden in the South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions.

WHO estimates that 58% of premature deaths were due to ischaemic heart disease and stroke, 18% of deaths were due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and acute lower respiratory infections respectively, and 6% of deaths were due to lung cancer.

Addressing all risk factors for noncommunicable diseases – including air pollution – is key to protecting public health.

Most sources of outdoor air pollution are well beyond the control of individuals and demands concerted action by local, national and regional level policy-makers working in sectors like transport, energy, waste management, urban planning, and agriculture.

There are many examples of successful policies that reduce air pollution:

for industry: clean technologies that reduce industrial smokestack emissions; improved management of urban and agricultural waste, including capture of methane gas as biogas emitted from waste sites as an alternative to incineration

for energy: ensuring access to affordable clean household energy solutions for cooking, heating and lighting

for transport: shifting to clean modes of power generation; prioritizing rapid urban transit, walking and cycling networks in cities as well as rail interurban freight and passenger travel; shifting to cleaner heavy-duty diesel vehicles and low-emissions vehicles and fuels, including fuels with reduced sulphur content

for urban planning: improving the energy efficiency of buildings and making cities more green and compact, and thus energy efficient

for power generation: increased use of low-emissions fuels and renewable combustion-free power sources (like solar, wind or hydropower); co-generation of heat and power; and distributed energy generation (e.g. mini-grids and rooftop solar power generation)

for municipal and agricultural waste management: strategies for waste reduction, waste separation, recycling and reuse or waste reprocessing; as well as improved methods of biological waste management such as anaerobic waste digestion to produce biogas, are feasible, low-cost alternatives to the open incineration of solid waste. Where incineration is unavoidable, then combustion technologies with strict emission controls are critical

Do you contribute to the reduction of air pollution? How?

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