Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Impact Of Air Pollution On Heart Disease

Air pollution is a condition in which air is contaminated by particulates, biological molecules, or other harmful materials. Air pollution consists of gaseous, liquid or solid substances that, when present over a sufficient long period of time, might possibly cause environmental damage and eventually cause disease or even death to humans.

On March 25, 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) released its new estimates that are based on the latest WHO mortality data from 2012 and evidence of health risks from air pollution exposures. The report indicated that in 2012 around 7 million people died or 1 in 8 of total global deaths because of air pollution exposure. This makes air pollution the world’s largest single environmental health risk.

Previously, air pollution has been accused of playing a role in the development of respiratory disease including acute respiratory infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD). But the new data clearly suggested there is a stronger link between both indoor and outdoor air pollution exposure and cardiovascular diseases (ischemic heart disease and stroke), as well as between air pollution and cancer.

WHO’s new estimates are based not only on more knowledge about the disease caused by air pollution, but also on better assessment of human exposure to air pollutants through the use of improved measurements and technology.

Surprisingly, indoor air pollution kills more people than outdoor pollution. Indoor pollution comes from cooking stoves and fireplaces still used in poorer countries by nearly 3 billion people, mostly women. WHO estimates that air pollution was associated with 4.3 million deaths in households that used wood, coal or other open-air fires, while 3.7 million died from the effects of outdoor pollution.

Regionally, the low- and middle-income countries in the WHO South-East Asia and Western Pacific Regions had the largest air pollution-related death in 2012, with a total of 3.3 million deaths linked to indoor air pollution and 2.6 million deaths related to outdoor air pollution.

Cleaning up the air can certainly prevent non-communicable diseases and cuts disease risks among women, children and elderly who spends more time at home breathing in smoke and soot from leaky coal and wood cook stoves.

In the WHO’s survey, it was found that 40 percent of deaths linked to outdoor air pollution were from heart disease; 40 percent from stroke; 11 percent from COPD; 6 percent from lung cancer and 3 percent from acute lower respiratory infections in children. 

For deaths linked to indoor pollution, 26 percent from heart disease; 34 percent from stroke; 22 percent from COPD; 6 percent from lung cancer and 12 percent from acute lower respiratory infections in children.

The new evidence clearly revealed that the risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and stroke. It is time for the countries concerned to have concerted action to clean up the air, with the help of WHO and health sectors in formulating policies that can deliver impact and improvements to save lives.

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