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Air pollution, one victim every five seconds: the UN raises the alarm

Air pollution, one victim every five seconds: the UN raises the alarm


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Air pollution
, the "silent killer". Air contamination around the globe has reached levels such as to cause as many as one victim every five seconds, for about 800 deaths per hour.

These figures are so impressive that a David Boyd, UN expert on human rights and the environment, who "humanity is about to cause the sixth mass extinction in the world“.

Pollution: the harmful effects on health

The sad picture drawn by the expert comes from Human Rights Council of Geneva. The health risks deriving from air pollution range from respiratory diseases to lung cancer, from birth problems to neurological disorders. Recent studies have even identified a link between air contamination and unhappiness: the higher the levels of particulate matter, the more moody people appear.

As highlighted by the UN, vulnerable people, such as children and the elderly, suffer from the highest levels of pollution. Women are more affected than men. Furthermore, the majority of deaths are recorded in low- or moderate-income countries.

All this occurs, despite the fact that the right to a healthy environment is legally recognized by 155 states.

Air pollutants are widespread everywhere, caused largely by the combustion of fossil fuels for electricity, transport and heating, as well as industrial activities, poor waste management and agricultural practices", Comments the expert.

Air pollution is present both indoors and outdoors and is responsible for premature death of seven million people a year, including 600,000 children.

Many of these victims, Boyd comments "die after years of suffering from cancer, respiratory diseases or heart diseases directly caused by polluted air". But according to the expert, these are deaths that could have been prevented.

Prevent air pollution

Hence Boyd's invitation to states around the world: respect their legal obligations to guarantee citizens essential rights for life, such as the right to clean air, health, water, sanitation , adequate housing and a healthy environment.

There are many, the expert underlines, the actions that can be carried out to ensure cleaner air and to reduce at the same time greenhouse gas emissions, which cause climate change.

In particular, there are seven key measures that governments can pursue to respect their obligations regarding human rights and the right to a healthy environment. According to Boyd, the states "must control the quality of the air; identify sources of atmospheric pollution; inform public opinion and include it in decision-making processes; promulgate laws or regulations to determine clear limits in the field of pollution; develop action plans in these areas; implement these plans by granting them sufficient resources; assess progress in these areas”.

The workable solutions for improve air quality and fighting climate change are numerous and well known. With annual investments of 4.7 billion dollars, for example, universal access to clean kitchens could be guaranteed by 2030. A relatively modest investment of this kind, the UN specifies, "would produce tremendous results, with millions of premature deaths avoided every year, improved health, a favorable change in quality of life, a broadening economic outlook, a reduction in deforestation and a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions”.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of positive examples in the world. Some states, such as Indonesia, have begun to tackle the problem of pollution indoor resulting from cooking, helping millions of poor families move to cleaner cooking technologies.

Among the key recommendations suggested by the UN rapporteur are also the ban on building new fossil-fueled power plants and the replacement of existing ones by 2030, together with support for the growth of distributed generation systems based on renewable energies.

The data speak for themselves. Changing course is an increasingly pressing need. A healthy environment is an imperative right for all humanity and for the very salvation of the planet.


Video: Health emergency declared in Nepal as pollution rises (May 2022).