Are 1 in 6 Deaths Linked to Pollution around the Globe?

Are 1 in 6 Deaths Linked to Pollution around the Globe?

A 2017 Lancet Commission on pollution and health revealed that as early as 2015, pollution was already linked to a significant percentage of deaths worldwide. In 2019, the Lancet Commission report revealed that more than nine million (or 1 in 6) deaths globally are caused by pollution. Pollution is still very much a significant issue nowadays.

Emory University’s Exposure Science and Environmental Health Professor Dana Boyd Barr, PhD. summarised it best – environmental policies in the United States are too relaxed. There has not been any indication that creating and keeping a sustainable environment is a priority.

The 2019 report is evidence that pollution has become a health risk that can be more life-changing than alcohol and drugs, tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV. Even if the water pollution situation has improved over the years, the death rate has been relatively the same since 2015 because of the increase in chemical and air pollution. Around 75% of deaths reported are attributed to air pollution. 

Air pollution is now considered to have the same health effects as smoking cigarettes. Among other things, it can damage the lungs. This is the reason why high-income countries such as the UK and the United States have come up with programs designed to reduce air pollution; the Clean Air Act is one of these.

The UK has London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) and CAZs or Clean Air Zones that keep highly polluted (and congested) areas free from vehicles with toxic emissions. Nevertheless, these aren’t enough to combat the devastating effects of air pollution.

Philip Landrigan, director of Boston College’s Global Public Health Program and Global Pollution Observatory and co-author of the research, stressed the important role of pollution prevention in slowing down climate change. He also suggested shifting to clean and renewable energy instead of depending on fossil fuels.

The Lancet report

Aside from the nine million deaths linked to pollution, the Lancet report also discussed modern pollutants such as lead pollution, carcinogens, ozone, and particulate and occupational particulate matter. Sources for these pollutants include agrochemicals, heavy metals, and fossil fuels. 

A big number of deaths linked to pollution are caused by traditional sources, such as water pollution and air pollution. 

The Lancet report collected data from 2019 that came from the Global Burden of Disease, Injuries, and Risk Factor Study. Researchers also studied trends that have surfaced since the year 2000.

According to the report, 4.5 million of the 2019 deaths were due to ambient particulate matter air pollution, a significant increase from 2000’s 2.9 million and 2019’s 4.2 million. Ambient particulate matter typically comes from fossil fuel combustion, which is responsible for over four million deaths every year.

It is estimated that deaths linked to ambient air pollution can double by the year 2050 if communities and governments continue to neglect the issue. It should be considered a critical priority, specifically for public health.

Diesel emissions

Another major source of air pollution is diesel emissions released by road transport. 

Nitrogen oxide is emitted by diesel vehicles. It is a type of highly reactive gas that has adverse effects on the environment and a person’s health. It produces smog, acid rain, and the pollutant ground-level ozone, which causes plants and crops to weaken and become more susceptible to frost and damage. 

NOx emissions are also triggers for people with mental health issues. Constant exposure can lead to episodes of anxiety or depression. In some cases, the impact can be on their cognitive abilities, which can potentially cause Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia.

What makes NOx emissions dangerous are their impacts on a person’s health. Low-level exposure can cause dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. Asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, and other respiratory diseases may also develop if a person is constantly exposed to even low levels of nitrogen oxides.

The more devastating impacts, though, are on people who are exposed to high levels of NOx emissions. Laryngospasms (vocal cords spasm), asphyxia, chronic lung function reduction, and cardiovascular diseases are some of the life-changing effects of NOx emissions on a person. 

In more serious cases, exposure to NOx emissions can lead to premature death. Hundreds of thousands of early deaths have been linked to air pollution over the years, and the numbers haven’t stopped increasing.

These NOx impacts are the reason why car owners deceived by the 2015 Dieselgate diesel emissions scandal have brought forward claims against their vehicle manufacturer. 

Dieselgate scandal

The Dieselgate diesel emissions scandal started when US authorities discovered defeat devices installed in Volkswagen and Audi diesel vehicles across the country. 

Designed to detect when a vehicle is being tested, a defeat device is used to manipulate emissions levels during the test. Levels are kept within the World Health Organization (WHO)-mandated limits so authorities only see a fuel-efficient and hence, an environmentally safe vehicle. Out on the road, however, it’s a different story.

Outside laboratory conditions, a defeat device will uncap the vehicle’s emissions, causing it to emit excessive volumes of NOx. So, car owners involved in the scandal, such as VW, Mercedes-Benz, and Vauxhall, essentially deceived their customers. They should be held responsible.If you think that your VW, Mercedes, or Vauxhall is equipped with a defeat device, find out if you are eligible to make a diesel claim. Visit the website and you’ll soon be on your way to claiming your emission compensation.

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