The World Health Organization (WHO), could not have provided more alarming news right before World Health Day. According to WHO, 99 percent of the world’s population are exposed to air that is above acceptable quality and poses a threat to their health. According to WHO, urban dwellers are at greatest risk because they inhale unhealthy levels of fine particulate matter (and nitrogen dioxide) and are more likely to die. People living in low- and middle-income countries are most affected. India is one of these countries.
It’s no surprise that the United Nations decided to make this year’s World Health Day the “Our Planet, Our Health” theme. According to the UN, more than 13 million deaths each year worldwide are due to preventable environmental causes. Climate change is one example. Many environmental factors have an effect on our health.
Technological advancements and the exponential growth of industry have made it clear that humans are contributing to global warming and air pollution through their lifestyles. According to the United Nations, we are consuming and producing more than ever before and we are generating more greenhouse gasses (GHGs), and more air pollutants than ever. Both pollution and climate change are two sides of the same coin.
Pollution in India
A study last year found that at least 30% of Indian deaths can be attributed air pollution from fossil fuels. To put it another way, 2.5 million people are killed each year from breathing in toxic air. This conclusion was reached by scientists from Harvard University, University College London, and other institutions in a paper published Environmental Research. According to the report, 1 in 5 deaths were caused by pollution due to fossil fuel use.
India has one of the worst records in pollution. According to the World Air Quality Report prepared by Swiss organization IQAir, India was home to 35 cities with the worst air quality. Delhi remained the most polluted capital of the world.
WHO states that particulate matter, particularly PM 2.5, can penetrate the lungs deep enough to enter the bloodstream and cause cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and respiratory diseases. Particulate matter can also cause serious damage to other organs, according to the WHO. Another highly reactive and dangerous gas, Nitrogen Dioxide, (NO2), is released into the atmosphere by burning fuel in power plants, cars and trucks.
It can lead to respiratory disease, especially asthma, which could cause other problems such as coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing.
In its most recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations states that human-caused climate change is caused by more than 100 years of unsustainable energy use, land usage, and consumption patterns.
Covid-19, which had a worldwide impact, reinforced the importance of being healthy. People who were already at risk of becoming seriously ill suffered the most. The worst effects were felt by people who have existing illnesses or those with limited access to high-quality health care services.
Urgent action is what’s needed
The IPCC report states that climate change is increasingly threatening the health and livelihoods, biodiversity, and ecosystem health of people all over the world if there are not urgent, effective, and equitable mitigation measures.
According to the IPCC, promoting “walkable cities” with electrification can result in improved mobility and cleaner air. A better housing policy that encourages daily transport could help reduce pollution.
Protecting the Earth’s Environment means taking several mitigation measures, such as increasing solar energy and wind power, electrification urban transport systems, green cover, energy-efficient methods, better management of waste, and other steps.
We can improve our health by changing our lifestyles and volunteering with many NGOs that are involved in fighting climate change, pollution and protecting the environment.