Air pollution is the presence of substances in the atmosphere that are harmful to the health of humans and other living beings. Air pollution, according to reports, kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year.
A Consultant Physician at the Royal National ENT Hospital, London, Dr. Glenis Kathlene Scadding, has called for global action to reduce air pollution, noting that new studies have confirmed that it is responsible for increasing incidence of pre-term birth and low birth weight.
Speaking on Tuesday at a session of the ongoing 2020 virtual world conference of the International Pharmaceutical Federation, Dr Scadding, who is also an honorary senior lecturer in clinical immunology at the University of London, said over 90 per cent of the world’s population live in areas where air quality is below the World Health Organisation standards.
Scadding said air pollution is now linked to more deaths than smoking, adding that anyone living near the main road is exposed to air pollution that is equivalent to smoking 10 sticks of cigarettes daily.
“Nitroxide exposure causes four million new cases of asthma every year; while 25 per cent premature deaths from chronic pulmonary disease alone in middle-income countries are due to household air pollution exposure.
“We tend to see air pollution as mainly happening outdoor, but it can happen inside the house, as there is a whole lot of pollution in the house.
“These include oxides of nitrogen when cooking, ozone radiation in some houses, carbon dioxide, tobacco smoke, aromatic hydrocarbons, lead and secondary organic aerosols.
“Pregnant women and babies are also affected, as pollution from PM 2.5 [fine particles] increases the risk of pre-term birth and low birth weight.
“This is not from one study but a meta-analysis of several studies. This is very genuine information and fairly new,”
The physician said air pollution is now considered by WHO as the greatest environmental risk to health, and is linked to seven million deaths annually.
She said while the COVID-19 pandemic was yet to kill a million people, studies have linked the deaths of seven million people every year to air pollution. People in Africa, Middle-East, India and China, she said are exposed to high levels of fine particles.
The consultant physician also stated that studies have linked indoor air pollution to asthma, wheezing, conjunctivitis, dermatitis and eczema, adding that those most vulnerable to it include children, the elderly, respiratory impaired persons as well as those allergic to pollution.
According to Scadding, sources of outdoor air pollution include agricultural activities, energy production and distribution, coal mining, gas transmission, road transportation causing pollution from diesel and petrol fuel combustion from the exhaust.
Also speaking at the session, Mr. Lars-Ake Soderlund, head of the community pharmacy section of FIP, said air pollution impacts the immune system.
Air pollution, he reiterated, is responsible for the death of seven million people each year, noting that most of the deaths are from diseases such as cancer, stroke, heart and lung diseases.
Air pollution, he said, also impacts peoples vulnerability to infectious diseases and pandemics, adding that community pharmacists are key to activating practical measures to address the challenge.