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Air Pollution: Killing People and Your Wallet at an Alarming Rate

The Rise of Air Pollution

Everyday, us human beings meticulously choose our foods and drinks that we consume. However, most of us do not consider the quality of the air that we breathe each day. Since we breathe in over 3,000 gallons of air each day and can live for just minutes without it, its imperative that we consider the air we breathe. Unfortunately, air pollution levels on a global scale have significantly deteriorated within the past 10 years, with a World Health Organization report revealing that particulate matter (PM) pollution for 2010 was 4X greater than in 2000. With more air pollution comes more unnecessary deaths and more of an economic burden.

  • Over 131.8 million Americans live in the 254 counties where they are exposed to unhealthful levels of air pollution in the form of either ozone or short-term or year-round levels of particles (American Lung Association, 2013).
  • Over 15.8 million adults age 65 and over and nearly 32.3 million children under 18 years old live in U.S. counties that received an F for at least one pollutant (American Lung Association, 2013).
  • About 90% of the world’s population lives in areas where the air is polluted to the extent that it’s going to affect your health (Prof. Michael Brauer, Technion).

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, many tourists wore facemasks to protect themselves from the high air pollution Air pollution at 2008 Beijing olympics causes tourists to wear  air filter face masks (Photo by wantchinatimes.com).

Mortality Rates Associated with Air Pollution

So many people take the time to visit their primary care physicians for annual checkups. However, does your doctor ever discuss air pollution with you during your check up? Over 80% of people that participated in a recent survey stated that air pollution was not mentioned at their annual checkup. That is unfortunate, because research has shown that as air pollution increases so do mortality rates.

  • A 2013 study calculated that approximately 200,000 early deaths occur every year in the United States because of air pollution (OCED, 2014).
  • Air pollution has now become the biggest environmental cause of premature death, overtaking poor sanitation and a lack of clean drinking water (OCED, 2014).
  • Reductions in U.S. air pollution accounted for up to 15% of increased life expectancy (2.7 years) (Prof. Michael Brauer, Technion).

Economic Costs Associated with Air Pollution

More than half of Americans suffer from chronic diseases. Unfortunately, many chronic diseases are a result of air pollution. The economic costs endured from air pollution are extensive. Lo and behold, it’s the taxpayers that are funding the majority of the costs relating to air pollution.

  • Air pollution is costing OCED countries, China and India a combined 3.5 trillion dollars a year in terms of the value of lives lost and ill health (OCED, 2014).
  • The economic cost of air pollution for Australia was about $5.8 billion in 2010, up from $2.9 billion just five years earlier (OCED, 2014).
  • Industrial air pollution cost Europe up to €169 billion in 2009 (European Environment Agency, 2013).

Recommendations:

With rising air pollution levels contributing to more fatalities and economic costs, it is imperative that our society makes an arduous attempt to reverse this trend. With that in mind, listed below are several recommendations that should be taken into account by policy makers to successfully shrink this problem.

1)    Proper education on the subject of air quality is necessary. Recent research suggests that there is a lack of awareness among the public regarding the links between air pollution and ill health, and a lack of understanding concerning air quality information.

2)    Air pollution alert services have the potential to reduce hospital admissions and general practitioner visits and, as a result, health-care burden and costs.

For example, BreezoMeter is a big-data analytics platform that allows gathering of data from thousands of sensors worldwide and provides a real time, location based map of air pollution levels together with personalized health solutions on how to minimize users exposure.

3)    Regulate Diesel: 50% of the economic costs associated with air pollution come from road transport. Reducing diesel emissions and encouraging public transit and electrical cars will decrease air pollution.  

Sources:

http://www.milkeninstitute.org/pdf/chronic_disease_report.pdf https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZgbnuDrA6A https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyLYKSkTJxk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ErHW7qR7vE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76T7z3Gn3xU

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