The Rise of the Global Air Pollution Crisis

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The Huffington Post recently published an article on the global problem with air pollution and how it is killing millions of people each year. This startling foray into the issues created by air pollution serves as a cautionary tale that the issue must be addressed before it gets even more out of hand.

According to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, even though air pollution is not necessarily listed as a cause of death on a death certificate, it was responsible for about 12 percent of global deaths in 2016. Respiratory conditions, such as lung cancer and emphysema, are byproducts of air pollution and frequently result in death.

While the focus tends to be on outdoor air pollution as a source of health problems, indoor air pollution is a serious issue as well. It is estimated that indoor air pollution was responsible for about 2.6 million deaths around the world each year. India is the number one country in terms of death linked to any kind of air pollution, and it continues to have more deaths attributed to air pollution each year. Globalization and the demand for manufacturing are the major contributors to the high levels of air pollution in India. Other countries with large populations of low-skilled workers suffer from a similar fate because they rely heavily on manufacturing and exports to support their economies.

The solution to the global air pollution crisis is not an easy one to anticipate. It is difficult to curtail manufacturing capacity in developing countries because their populations can suffer gravely at the hands of poverty. Without a stable source of income, those populations are at risk of disease and premature death from many other causes. China has attempted to levy criminal fines on companies that violate air pollution regulations in an attempt to stomp out the widespread perception that violation of environmental regulations is simply a cost of doing business.

The air pollution problem could be magnified by the rising global temperatures associated with global warming. Given that higher temperatures are also responsible for more fires, smog from those fires is an additional concern in some geographic areas. Ground-level ozone formation increases with higher temperatures, which also contributes to lung inflammation and chest pain. The severity of the consequences of not addressing the global air pollution issue will only be exacerbated with the long-term effects of global warming.