Air is a dynamic mix of chemicals in constant motion, flowing from place to place through atmospheric circulation system. When most people think of air in the context of the environment, they probably think of air pollution. And, yes that is the major part of the picture!
Whether people remain inside their homes, AC facilitated offices, or out in the open air, they are continuously exposed to air pollution. More so indoors than outdoors.
An emerging environmental health risk and a growing global issue, pollution in the air is detrimental to human health, and the planet as a whole. The release of various gases, finely divided solids or finely dispersed liquid aerosols, at rates that exceed the natural capacity of the environment to dissipate, dilute or absorb them is what causes pollution in the air. These substances may reach concentrations in the air that cause undesirable health, economic and environmental effects.
Air pollution is not a recent occurrence. If we look at the history, a large number of the world’s population have lost their lives to air pollution. By now, 65 % of deaths in Asia are due to the same reason. According to the figures published by WHO (2016), on air pollution, 34 % of deaths were in the account of acute lower respiratory infection. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease took a toll of 31 % Asian deaths. Likewise, 22 % of the total Asian population lost their lives to lung cancer, and ischemic heart disease each and 9% of deaths were accounted for stroke in South East Asia.
If we look at Nepal’s current data, studies have shown that around 60% of total annual deaths in Nepal are rooted in air pollution. Among this 31% is owed to non-communicable diseases, mostly constructive obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, 40%), Ischemic heart disease (IHD, 40%) and cancer (5%), others are communicable airborne diseases.
In terms of air quality, the latest released environment performance index (EPI), 2018 puts Nepal at the 176th rank for air-quality among 180 countries. EPI report ranks the countries on 24 indicators across 10 categories, covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality. It has highlighted air pollution in Nepal to be a leading threat to public health.
Thousands of people die annually in Nepal owing to degrading health condition. However, atmospheric pollution is still not recognized as a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases. It just often viewed as a concern for the environment when the truth is directly related to people’s health.
LET’S ADMIT IT! We all have sensed that the air we breathe on a daily basis is unclean and unsafe. It is no surprise that we are fighting a prolonged attack from various pollutants.
As we come to acknowledge the fact that pollution in the air is dangerous to our health, it is also high time we realize that nobody and everybody is responsible to stay aware and act on reducing and eliminating this silent killer from our lives!
Janata Clinic | Samartha Nepal
Intern – Research
Janata Clinic | Samartha Nepal