Health effects of air pollution

air pollution

That air pollution is harmful to our health should not be a surprise by now. We know of all the negative effects it has on all kinds of people: from strokes to pulmonary cancer, from asthma to skin diseases. However, something that we rarely touch on this magazine is the incidence of deaths attributed to it. 

It is important, however, to talk about this. It illustrates the gravity of our pollution problem and drives home that these aren’t just words and fear mongering, but facts that we have to deal with. It was back in 2015, when the Lancet Commission on pollution and health found that general contamination was responsible for 9 million premature deaths worldwide. An incredibly large number of casualties attributed to a single phenomenon, making of it a killer more aggressive than the abuses of alcohol and drugs, and more lethal than tuberculosis, malaria and HIV.  

But things haven’t improved since then. Using data from the Global Burden of Disease StudyThe Lancet Planetary Health found that in 2019 the number of premature deaths remained the same, 9 million, which corresponds to one out of six deaths worldwide. That the number has remained the same is not a reason to celebrate. It is a huge number of casualties resulting from a man-made problem. And even though there has been some reduction in the numbers of deaths attributed to polluted indoors air, these are offset by an increase in deaths caused by ambient air pollution. 

This is the ugly side effect of urban and industrial growth, and sometimes it is hard to see a way out. Outdoors air pollution, together with other forms of contamination, such as toxic chemicals released into the soil and water supply, has risen 7% since 2015, and over 66% since 2000Air pollution alone can easily be blamed for an estimated 75% of all reported deaths, making of it the worst offender out of all the different forms of contamination. It grosses over 6.5 million global deaths per year, while lead and other toxic chemicals can be blamed to 1.8 million. 

Actions taken due to air pollution

With these numbers stacking the annual death toll, anyone would have thought that by now somebody would be doing something about it. But the truth is that any actions taken by governments and private industries is minimal, sometimes just mere symbology to pay lip service to environmental watchdogs, like the UK’s Office for Environmental Protection, or the USA’s Environmental Integrity Project. There is no use in denying this: our lifestyle is in many ways directly to blame for much of this. Profit is the invisible driver of most of our pollution problems, since the production of waste and the contamination of our air is a side effect of what we perceive as economic growth and social process. Air pollution is generated through motor vehicles’s exhaust fumes and the processes of industry, while all of our soil and water contamination can be attributed to excess plastic and chemical spillage from broken batteries and computer waste.   

air pollution effects

Seeing how profit is the invisible hand that is trashing the planet, it is not a surprise that little has been done to truly address this issue. We are not, of course, attacking commercial activities, but we want to be critical about the ways we go about conducting business and producing consumer goods. High-income countries are the only ones that have tried to do something about pollution control, acting on the argument that managing it will be a means to mitigate climate change. On the other hand, low-to-middle income countries have barely addressed the issue. 

The truth is that the biggest complication of our time, the one that runs the risk of getting out of control and turn this planet into a barren wasteland where human life will likely be unable to thrive, is a disgusting cocktail made of three ingredients. The mix between climate change, pollution and loss of biodiversity, none of which exists by itself, but is linked to the other. Therefore, if we expect to do something about one of them, we must consider solutions for the other two. 

Other effects of air pollution

air pollution spain

Even though it looks at data from 2019, the report published by The Lancet Planetary Health is still good enough to take a look at our present time. If things didn’t improve between 2005 and 2019, they definitely didn’t become any better from then onwards. Men are more likely than women to die from exposure to air pollution, according to the study. On the other hand, women and children are more prone to die after consumption of polluted water.  

Thousands of chemicals are produced by traffic, industrial and commercial activities, such as PM 2.5 particles and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2). Yet, only a fraction of these toxins have been adequately tested for their effects on health, so their disease burden can’t be properly quantified at the moment. Yet, it is known that these chemicals hanging from the air can cause immunotoxicityreproductive toxicity and developmental neurotoxicity.  

Even worse still, data shows that part of a nations own air pollution can be transferred to another one. This is known as transboundary pollution, and is mediated by wind and water, the animal food chain, and even consumer products. For example, global wind currents move air pollution from east Asia to North America. From there, it is transported to Europe, where it latter moves into the Arctic and Central Asia. So not only do we have to deal with our country’s own production of pollutants, we also need to address the clouds of toxic chemicals that have been produced hundred of kilometers away. This gives a new and ugly spin to our imports and exports. 

Is indoor air safe?

We would be tempted to believe that staying indoors will be protection enough to avoid any health issues caused by air pollution, but we would be wrong. There are two things to consider here. First of all, due the way they are built and the consumer goods inside of them, indoors can be just as polluted as outdoors. Secondly, we conduct 90% of our time in various indoors, so we are constantly exposed to different forms of air contamination resulting from broken appliances, gas cookers, radon filtrations, moldy carpets and moldy walls. Not to mention all of the outdoors air pollution that we bring inside whenever we open a window to ventilate. 

The cumulative effects of air pollution, as reported by The Lancet Planetary Health and various other outlets, is premature death. There are no two ways about it, and it is a very serious problem. Death may not come instantly, but air pollution gradually breaks down our bodies until its arrival is inevitable. As we have pointed out, staying indoors does nothing to resolve this issue, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do something about it in the very spaces where we live and work. 

plants for indoor spaces

With AIR8 filters we have a way to protect ourselves

air purifiers

The gravity of our global environmental problem is so strong, that some of us still have difficulty wrapping our heads around it. But it is real, and very tangible. That is why we have developed the best filtering tools available in the market, built with medical-grade HEPA-13 technology that is capable of filtering out 99.97% of all toxins, pathogens and viruses found indoors. HEPA filters have a long and interesting history, and they have been tested in some of the most demanding and hazardous industrial environments. 

More importantly, we do as we preach. Our products have been designed and manufactured using only the best environmentally-friendly practices, which can be testified by the CE mark that each of them carries with it. This means that we comply to the environmental standards set by the European Commission, and that your office will be benefited by some of the most sophisticated air filtering products available. Silent, stylish and effective, with a low energetic cost and low carbon footprint. 

We are doing our part in the effort to solve the problem of air pollution, and we do not share into the negativity that reports like The Lancet Planetary Health’s often generate. A good step is to breathe fresh and clean air indoors, and we have developed the perfect tools to do so.