The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that air pollution can cause heart disease and stroke, two common causes of premature death, and evidence has also emerged that other diseases, such as diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases, can also be caused by air pollution. According to the UN health agency, air pollution poses a major threat to health and climate around the globe, ranging from smog to smoke inside the home.
In an effort to raise awareness about air pollution, WHO recently tweeted:
In the thread, WHO explained how air pollution affects various demographics of humans, including children.
WHO has also brought awareness about air pollution in the past on their outlets, including a special talk with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
According to WHO, the air we breath is becoming dangerously polluted as the world gets hotter and more crowded, as our engines continue emitting dirty emissions, and half the world does not have access to clean fuels and technologies (e.g. stoves, lamps), and the very air we breathe is growing dangerously polluted: nine out of ten people breathe polluted air, killing seven million people annually.
There is no escape from air pollution, no matter how wealthy your neighborhood is. Microscopic pollutants can slip past our bodies’ defences and cause damage to our lungs, heart, and brain, no matter where you live, says WHO.
“The true cost of climate change is felt in our hospitals and in our lungs. The health burden of polluting energy sources is now so high, that moving to cleaner and more sustainable choices for energy supply, transport and food systems effectively pays for itself,” explains WHO Director of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health Dr Maria Neira.
As part of the conversation, the WHO also explained a number of important questions.
What is air pollution and how does it lead to disease in our bodies?
The main pathway from air pollution to human health is through the respiratory tract, which is exposed to dust, fumes, gas, mist, odour, smoke or vapor. These pollutants cause inflammation, oxidative stress, immunosuppression, and mutagenicity in our cells, affecting the lungs, heart, brain, and other organs.
Are some populations more likely to be at higher risk for disease from air pollution?
Children, the elderly, and pregnant women are at higher risk for air pollution-related diseases. Genetics, comorbidities, nutrition, and sociodemographics also play a role.
Several studies suggest that air pollution may affect diabetes and neurological development in children, as well as low birth weight, preterm births, and small-for-gestational-age births.
What diseases are associated with exposure to air pollution?
The risk of air pollution isn’t just mortality, it’s specific diseases too. Stroke, ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, pneumonia, cataract (household air pollution) are the diseases most strongly linked with air pollution.
In addition, air pollution exposure has also been linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes (i.e. low birth weight, small for gestational age), other cancers, diabetes, cognitive impairment, and neurological diseases.