Polluted lungs: health in the center of environment discussion

environment 2019

(Unsplash, 2019)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Amany Gonçalves Robaina, a 21 years old and medicine student at Universidade Regional de Blumenau (FURB), in Blumenau, Santa Catarina – Brazil. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Since the Indutrial Revolution it was belived in the eternaty of the natural ressourses and therefore invested in the exacerbated and irresponsible industrial productin, which dismissed the concern with the environment. In our times, we feel the consequences of those past choices and current consumer society model : global warming, pollution, depletion of natural resoueces, increase of natural didasters, climate change.

During the last century the environment theme was discussed, treaties were signed and elaborate goals. However, depite the broad discussion of climate and environmental changes, how these changes negatively affect human health have been neglected.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. Air pollution kills approximately 7 million people anuualy, with 80% noncommunicable diseases and 20% of respiratory infections, due to exposure to particles in pollution air, which penetrate the lungs and cardiovascular system, causing spills, heart diseases, lung câncer, chronic obstructive pulmonar disease and respiratory infections.

Over 90% of deaths related to pollution occur in low and middle income countries. The lack of resouces and governamental immaturity are possible causes for the perpetuation of choices withiut responsibility.

Unfortunately, about 40% of the worl’s population depends on biomass burning for household chores or warm – a lethal basic need, with and view that approximately 12% of the planet’s deaths are related to burning of intradomiciliar biomass and burning of forests and because of the inhalation of smoke.

The WHO establishes maximum levels of emission of harmful gases to human health. Many megacities exceed five times the organization’s reference levels, representing a great risk to the population health of these cities. Although the levels are too high in most of the world, one can observe a great interest in reversing this deadly frame. In recent years more and more countries are willing to measure the emission of harmful gases and take action to reduce it, resulting in more than 4300 cities around the country in 108 with the air quality within the proper parameters. A slower and more positive progress of the world’s authorities with a commitment to preserve the environment as well as health.

Furthermore, the global temperature rise, caused by large emission of greenhouse gases (CO2, N­2­O, CH4, CFC­s­, HFC­s­, PFC­s­, SF­6­­), contributes to the proliferation of vectors and therefore diseases such as malaria, dengue, Zika, which concern mainly the populations inhabiting tropical countries. As a result of this increase in temperature, the heat waves of the phenomenon has intensified and became more frequent. As the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, this phenomenon increases the risk of mortality in proportion to the intensity of the heat, and has caused thousands of deaths in Europe and Russia, for example. Most vulnerable populations such as the elderly and children are more susceptible to thermal drift due to the low ability to maintain body temperature.

It follows therefore that pollution, together with climate change affects human health in many ways, directly and indirectly, and therefore the proposed targets since ECO-92 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, they are so important both for the environment and for human health. Therefore, compliance with the targets set in global authorities of meetings, such as reduced emission greenhouse gases, conservation of nature and biodiversity, use of renewable energy, the commitment of countries together with the collaboration of the population in search sustainable development preserves the health of our planet and the health of each individual who lives, preventing them from cardiovascular diseases, pulmonary diseases, malaria, dengue fever, among other diseases. Therefore, the environment of the connection to health calls for a reassessment of these goals for the inclusion of health as a basic agenda of discussions on the preservation of nature and global biodiversity.

References:

Fiqueres, Landrigan, Fuller, Tackling air pollution, climate change, and NCDs: time to pull together, The Lancet Vol 392 October 27, 2018

Link: https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S0140-6736%2818%2932740-5

Landrigan, Fuller, Haines, Watts, McCarthy, Pollution prevention and climate change mitigan: measuring the health benefits of comrehensive interventions, The Lancet, Vol 2, 12 December 01, 2018

Link: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(18)30226-2/fulltext

About the author

Amany Gonçalves Robaina is 21 years old and a medicine student at Universidade Regional de Blumenau (FURB), in Blumenau, Santa Catarina – Brazil. She is in the second period of college and became a member of IFMSA during her first week there. She has a lot of interest in health and how it is affected. Besides, she really likes politics and social actions. So as a member of the IFMSA she took action in the university and in the community with the goal of improving my skills and learning as much as possible.

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