“Two-thirds of premature deaths are attributable to human-made air pollution” is the declaration of Thomas Münzel, professor at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Department of Cardiology of the University Medical Centre Mainz in Mainz, Germany. Together with his colleague, professor Jos Lelieveldn, they came with research that has terrifying results.
Air pollution occurs when harmful or excessive quantities of substances are introduced into the Earth’s atmosphere. Sources of air pollution include gases (such as ammonia, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, methane, and chlorofluorocarbons), particulates (both organic and inorganic), and biological molecules.
Air pollution only true competitor is smoking, but even smoking is gentler to human life expectancy. While smoking shortens it with 2.2 years, air pollution does it by almost 3 years.
Other factors that shorten life expectancy are HIV/AIDS by 0.7 years and the likes of malaria by 0.6 years. In 2015, air pollution killed no less than 8.8 million people, which means 43% of the total number.
Air pollution is a genuine problem around the world
How does it do it? Diseases such as respiratory tract infection, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, heart disease, cerebrovascular diseases leading to stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes, they don’t just happen. They need a great number of factors.
And while it’s easy to blame the genetics and the life-style, one must know that air pollution is a majority actioner in those medical conditions. The two professors called air pollution a pandemic. And the numbers justify it.
“Air pollution exceeds malaria as a global cause of premature death by a factor of 19; it exceeds violence by a factor of 16, HIV/AIDS by a factor of 9, alcohol by a factor of 45, and drug abuse by a factor of 60,” said Lelieveldn.
People with a predisposition for those illnesses and the ones that already have them should consider air pollution a risk factor. The authorities should pay more attention to it, at least as much as they pay to smoking. And doctors. They should be the first to become aware of the importance of this risk factor and make patients also become aware of this soft killer.