Air pollution: How to end the deaths of 7 million people per year

air pollution

(Holger Link, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Sarah Ibershimi, a third year medical students, studying at ‘Universiteti i Mjekësisë Tiranë (UMT)’, in Albania. 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.


Air Pollution is one of the most serious environmental issues facing the modern world nowadays. It is a combination of natural and man-made substances and gases, from the smoke indoors to the smog outdoors over the cities. It consists of small particles in the air, that can affect human’s health, animal’s life and plant’s growth. When these substances (gases, liquids or solids), reach high concentrations, they could become life-threatening.1,2

What causes air pollution?

People are affected not only by local pollution, but also by air pollution in a wider geographic perspective, since it can across continents. The main sources of air pollution are the household pollution or the indoors one (which consists in burning woods, fossil fuels, heat, light homes, polluting stoves, etc.) and the outdoors air pollution (which consists in the pollution that comes from industry, waste, transport and other sources.) 3.

How air pollution affects people worldwide?

People exposed to air pollution, are more predisposed to certain diseases such as: respiratory diseases, heart diseases, lung cancer, skin irritations, preterm birth and even death. There is also evidence of links between man-made air pollution and low birth weight, tuberculosis, cataract, nasopharyngeal and laryngeal cancers. Pollutants that have a negative and irreversible effect on people’s health are considered as toxic pollutants (asbestos, benzene, arsenic oxide, some nitrates, ethylene dichloride etc.)5According to World Health Organization data, 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. As a result, an estimated 7 million people worldwide, dies every year from the continuous exposure to polluted air.4

How can we end the deaths of 7 million people per year?

Taking steps to reduce air pollution is an urgent need.

Firstly, it is essential for every country to adopt laws to regulate emissions and reduce air pollution. It is especially important to take measures to control coal use and to place a limit on the amount of pollution an industry is allowed. Also, by reducing greenhouse gas emission, can combat global warming.1

Secondly, using renewable energy over fossil fuels is more environmentally friendly. Moreover, they do not involve toxic substances that can affect our health.

Thirdly, anybody can adopt the motto ‘From micro steps to macro results’. Simply changes in our daily life, can lead to reduction of air pollution. Taking public transport or riding a bicycle instead of driving a car, recycling organic materials instead of burning them, eating locally, adding insulation to our homes, reusing plastic and paper, using durable bags instead of plastic ones while shopping or even printing and photocopying in both sides are some of the small changes that can bring big results.

In conclusion, as we are facing an urgent crisis, it is time to act rapidly. If both people and governments take the measures, we can beat the climate change, by reducing air pollution.

References:

  1. Nunez, C. (2019, February 4). National Geographic. Retrieved from Air Pollution.
  2. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. (n.d.). Retrieved from Air Pollution.
  3. World Health Organization. (n.d.). Retrieved from Air Pollution.
  4. Environmental Pollution Centers. (2019).
  5. Environmental Defence Fund. (n.d.). Retrieved from Health impacts of air pollution.

About the author

Sarah Ibershimi is a third year medical students, studying at ‘Universiteti i Mjekësisë Tiranë (UMT)’, in Albania. She is a Vice-General Secretary of ACMS (Albanian Committee of Medical Students), part of IFMSA (International Federation of Medical Students’ Association), since August, 2019. This new experience is enabling her to advocate change for the betterment of health for all vulnerable groups, which is also one of the main purposes of ACMS. The intertwining of the passion and professionalism, has always helped her to show her best in all the responsibilities that she undertakes.

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