Published on March 5th, 2020 | by Cynthia Shahan
March 5th, 2020 by Cynthia Shahan
Air pollution is taking three years from your life, on average, worldwide. None of us are exempt — though, young children and the elderly are more vulnerable. Professors Jos Lelieveld and Thomas Münzel of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Department of Cardiology of the University Medical Center Mainz in Mainz, Germany, headed recent research on this topic, with the findings indicating that the world is facing an air pollution “pandemic.”
The European Society of Cardiology on March 3, 2020, published the study “Loss of life expectancy from air pollution compared to other risk factors: a worldwide perspective.” The study shows why we must eliminate “the toxic cocktail of molecules and lung-clogging particles cast off by burning oil, gas and coal,” as France 24 put it.
— EHN (@EnvirHealthNews) March 4, 2020
The press release on the study quotes Prof Münzel: “Both air pollution and smoking are preventable, but over the past decades much less attention has been paid to air pollution than to smoking, especially among cardiologists.”
Prof Münzel said: “Since the impact of air pollution on public health overall is much larger than expected, and is a worldwide phenomenon, we believe our results show there is an ‘air pollution pandemic’. Policy-makers and the medical community should be paying much more attention to this. …
“We show that about two-thirds of premature deaths are attributable to human-made air pollution, mainly from fossil fuel use; this goes up to 80% in high-income countries. Five and a half million deaths worldwide a year are potentially avoidable.
“It is important that policy-makers and the medical community realize that air pollution is an important risk factor for heart and blood vessel disease. It should be included as risk factor, along with smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure and cholesterol, in the guidelines of the European Society of Cardiology and the American Heart Association on the prevention of acute and chronic heart syndromes and heart failure.”
Of course, there is one giant solution to the pandemic — switch from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy for transport and electricity generations.
Another reason against burning fossil fuels: air pollution kills 8.8 million people annually, causing 15% of all deaths; shortens human lives by 2.9 years on average worldwide.https://t.co/t94kUOa9NO
— Health Impact Fund (@HealthImpact) March 4, 2020
Not only is air pollution shortening people’s lives. In fact, air pollution tops the awful list of ills responsible for shortening people’s lives worldwide — on a scale far greater than wars and other forms of violence, parasitic and vector-born diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS (0.7 years), and smoking (2.2 years on average), according to a separate study published in Cardiovascular Research Today.
The increasing risk of respiratory and heart diseases is due to prolonged, repetitive exposure. The team created a Global Exposure Mortality Model (GEMM) by incorporating information from other studies that prove that air pollution compromises internal organs, and the totality of us. The team also considered previous studies, such as ones that pointed to ambient black carbon particles reaching the growing womb and child through the human placenta.
The researchers looked at the effect of air pollution on six categories of disease, according to the European Society of Cardiology news release, “lower respiratory tract infection, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, heart disease, cerebrovascular disease leading to stroke, and other, non-communicable diseases, which include conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. They found that cardiovascular diseases (heart disease and cerebrovascular disease combined) are responsible for the greatest proportion of shortened lives from air pollution: 43% of the loss in life expectancy worldwide.”
Prof Lelieveld said: “In Africa, air pollution represents a health risk that is comparable to HIV/AIDS and malaria. However, in most of the rest of the world air pollution is a much greater health risk. When we looked at how pollution played a role in several diseases, its effect on cardiovascular disease was by far the largest – very similar to the effect of smoking. Air pollution causes damage to the blood vessels through increased oxidative stress, which then leads to increases in blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart attacks and heart failure.”
The full European Society of Cardiology press release is here.
The full report is available here.
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