Are 40,000 Lives Cut Short Every Year Due to Pollution?
By TOI Staff November 16, 2023 Update on : November 16, 2023
Air pollution remains a significant global concern. Many researchers have warned that it is a serious threat to public health, with some studies even suggesting that it can shorten lives. The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that air pollution is responsible for seven million deaths globally every year, and the numbers could be even higher. In the UK, a recent study by the Royal Colleges of Physicians and of Paediatrics and Child Health entitled, “Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution,” attributed 40,000 deaths annually due to exposure to air pollution. But is this claim accurate? Here’s what we know:
The Impacts of Air Pollution
Air pollution is a major public health concern, particularly in urban areas where pollution levels are highest. According to the RCP report, air pollution is linked to a range of health problems, including respiratory infections, asthma, heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.
It is estimated that air pollution contributes to around 7 million premature deaths globally every year, making it one of the leading causes of death worldwide. The health impacts of air pollution are particularly severe for children, elderly people, and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
The above-mentioned study, published in February 2016, presents a comprehensive analysis of the health effects of outdoor air pollution, primarily from diesel engines. The report examines the impact of air pollution on cancers, respiratory diseases, and cardiovascular diseases. The report is based on the review of extensive literature on the health effects of air pollution, including observational studies and experimental studies. The research attempts to quantify the number of premature deaths by comparing life expectancy in highly polluted areas against less polluted areas.
The findings of this study are alarming. The researchers estimate that outdoor air pollution, particularly from diesel engines, is responsible for around 40,000 deaths in the UK annually. Air pollution is also responsible for more annual deaths than alcohol, obesity, or road traffic accidents. The figure reinforces the link between air pollution and poor health, emphasising the need to address this issue more concertedly.
Nevertheless, it is crucial to consider the constraints of this study. While the researchers have conducted extensive research, they acknowledge the difficulty of precisely estimating the impact of air pollution on health. This is because air pollution is often caused by a complex mixture of chemicals and particulate matter, and its effects depend on various factors such as exposure time, age, and pre-existing health conditions of individuals.
In addition to their impact on air quality, diesel emissions can also impact water quality. Diesel fuel is often stored in tanks or transported in pipelines, and leaks or spills can contaminate waterways and groundwater. Diesel spills can be particularly harmful to marine life and can cause long-term environmental damage.
The effect of diesel emissions on the environment is not limited to air and water quality; they also contribute to climate change. Diesel engines contribute significantly to the release of greenhouse gases, with a major focus on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. CO2 is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to the warming of the planet and the melting of polar ice caps.
Sources of Pollution
Air pollution can come from various sources, including traffic, industrial activity, and domestic heating. The RCP report highlights the role of traffic as a major source of pollution in the UK, particularly in cities.
Vehicle emissions contain various harmful chemicals, including nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM). These pollutants can enter the lungs and bloodstream, causing many health problems.
In addition to traffic, other sources of pollution include industrial activity, such as power plants and factories, and domestic heating. Burning fossil fuels for energy generation and heating is a major source of air pollution, contributing to climate change and significant health impacts.
Reducing Air Pollution
The scale of the air pollution problem demands that immediate steps be taken to address the problem. Governments, policymakers, and individuals all have a role in combating this threat to public health. For instance, governments can introduce measures like phasing out diesel and petrol cars, incentivizing electric vehicles, and investing in cycling and walking infrastructure. Policymakers can also work towards reducing carbon emissions, improving public transport systems, and promoting cleaner energy sources.
At the individual level, people can play their part by reducing their carbon footprint, walking, cycling, or taking public transport. Using energy-efficient appliances and reducing fossil fuel consumption also reduces pollution levels. Conserving energy by turning off appliances when not in use and energy-efficient heating and cooling systems reduce energy usage and mitigate pollution.
How Do I Get Started with My Diesel Claim?
If you believe you have a valid claim for diesel compensation, the first step is to gather all the necessary documentation proving the extent of damage sustained because of the diesel emissions. Emissions.co.uk has information about the intricacies of diesel litigation and the necessary legal procedures.