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Air pollution, an invisible killer

In a previous file on air, the OMPE had noted that air pollution spared no one and that its origins are multiple : industrial emissions, emissions from motor vehicles and air traffic (recall that 2 % of global CO2 emissions are emitted by airliners), household pollution, “electronic” pollution (the information and communications technology industry is responsible for 2% of global CO2 emissions), incineration waste… And the consequences of this air pollution are dramatic, to say the least. WHO has just published a new report very disturbing …


Air pollution kills 7 million people a year

According to the latest alarming report published by the WHO (World Health Organization), air pollution is responsible for 7 million deaths each year. Much more than for the AIDS virus (1.1 million deaths) or road accidents (1.3 million deaths). Pollution is so deadly because it is responsible for a large proportion of strokes and heart disease (1st and 2nd cause of death in the world), respiratory disorders and chronic lung diseases (4th cause deaths) and lung cancers (9th cause of death). 70% of all deaths in the world are therefore linked to communicable diseases where air pollution is a major risk factor and aggravating factor.

Although this form of pollution has no boundaries, some regions are more affected than others. This is particularly the case of China but also of Southeast Asia (such as India). For several years, air pollution has become a serious issue in this country : of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, 10 are in India! WHO estimates the number of victims at more than 2 million a year. In the space of a few years, the number of medical consultations for pulmonary problems related to pollution has exploded by 300% in India. In 2016, and for the first time in its history, the number of deaths due to air pollution has exceeded that of China… But Europe is also not spared by this insidious pollution.


Air pollution : a particularly insidious health threat

On a daily basis, we breathe a mixture of gases, consisting in part of nitrogen and oxygen. But that’s not counting the polluting gases and fine particles that invade the atmosphere. According to WHO, nearly 90% of the world’s inhabitants breathe polluted air. And even though high-income regions, such as Europe, have lower levels of air pollution than elsewhere, they are not spared. Whatever the country, it is especially children and frail people who are most affected. The pneumonia, resulting in an acute lung infection, is the leading cause of death in children under 5 years and affects between 400 000 and 600 000 people per year in France. Asthma cases (the child’s first chronic disease) are also steadily increasing in children and in all developed countries.

As for the elderly, whose respiratory functions are diminished, they are particularly sensitive to air pollution. According to a recent study published by the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), “The physical degeneration of the elderly could be partly caused by excessive exposure to certain air pollutants present in the air we breathe.”


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