The quality of the air we breathe has huge long-term impacts on our health. And while most people know that air pollution can contribute to conditions like asthma and lung disease, the negative effects can be much more wide-ranging.
A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) links air pollution to higher rates of non-communicable diseases like heart disease, cancer and stroke — leading causes of death around the world. Eating an unhealthy diet, not getting enough exercise or abusing alcohol and tobacco increases the risk of these disease. So does breathing polluted air.
According to the report, “Preventing Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) by Reducing Environmental Risk Factors” —
23% of all deaths globally could be prevented by creating a healthier environment
12.6 million deaths per year are linked to the environment
Nearly 1/3 of cardiovascular disease can be attributed to indoor & outdoor air pollution
29% of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) deaths worldwide can be attributed to indoor air pollution and 8% to outdoor air pollution
The good news is that taking steps to reduce air pollution also reduces deaths from these preventable diseases.
The WHO report highlights some key examples of these life-saving measures — fewer deaths from heart disease following Beijing’s pollution-limiting measures for the 2008 Olympics; less lung cancer in the United Kingdom and Eastern and Central Europe after switching to cleaner fuel for stoves; and lower rates of disease in compact cities with greener transit and less air pollution.