Impact of air pollution on human health

Impact of air pollution on human health

By : Dr. Rulia Akhtar

Climate change is primarily caused by air pollution, which is also one of the greatest environmental problems facing the world in the current century. There are numerous causes of air pollution. Transportation, as well as manufacturing, power generation, commerce, urban areas with a farming economy, wood burning, particles, blazes, and eruptions, are a few examples.

The oxygen that we inhale, the fluids that we take in, and the land where crops thrive are all contaminated by human activity, which has a negative impact on our natural surroundings. Despite being an immense achievement in terms of innovation, society, and the delivery of many amenities, the industrial era also brought about the generation of enormous amounts of contaminants released into the atmosphere that are hazardous to individuals. The degradation of the environment on a worldwide basis is without any question seen as a complex worldwide healthcare problem.
This significant issue is connected to financial, social, legal, and lifestyle decisions. Given that anthropogenic pollutants in the air causes approximately nine million fatalities annually, it is one of the greatest global wellness risks.

The biggest hazards to the environment and human wellness are airborne pollutants, which rank fourth worldwide in terms of risk factors for premature mortality. Prolonged exposure to air contamination can have serious negative health effects, including early death from heart and lung diseases. Around the world, exposure to outdoor contaminants in the air over an extended period of time causes the deaths of over 4 million individuals each year. Many of these take place in Asia, where population explosions and swift petroleum-fueled growth have both contributed to deteriorating air quality.

A dedicated worldwide danger to human well-being and social security, contaminants in the air has a negative impact on well-being that is both dangerous and detrimental. 92 per cent of people on earth, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), inhale contaminated air, which has resulted in more than 6.5 million fatalities globally. Air pollution-related cardiovascular and respiratory conditions are a major cause of death. In the entire world, cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are the main factor in fatalities. 17.9 million people die every year from CVD, or 31% of all deaths, according to estimates. In a similar vein with a fatality rate of 35%, CVDs are the main cause of death in Malaysia. Since 60 to 80 percent of deaths resulting from air pollution are caused by CVD, the two conditions are closely related.

One of the most prevalent causes fatalities each year is airborne contaminants. In 2017, an estimated 6.4 million fatalities globally occurred due to air contamination, of which 4.2 million were attributable to outdoor contaminants and 2.8 million to indoors airborne pollutants. It is predicted that six to nine million people will die from surrounding airborne pollutants in 2060 if it is not strongly managed.

Malaysia has experienced the most severe pollution problems in many Southeast Asian nations, which has been a persistent issue. Agricultural slash-and-burn techniques and forest fires carried by breeze from Indonesia have been the main causes of pollution in the nation. The State of Global Air 2020 report states that in the previous ten years, PM2.5-related fatalities in Malaysia climbed by almost 30%. There may have been up to 10,600 air pollution-related fatalities in the nation in 2019. Malaysia is an emerging economy with a strong emphasis on manufacturing and a significant automobile usage pattern. As a result, Malaysia has recently faced a serious problem with air pollution.

Malaysians could live nearly two years more time annually if yearly mean fine particulate matter (PM2.5) amounts dropped to 10 ug/m3 to a decline of 65 percent from present normal levels of particles in the matter. As a result, reducing airborne contaminants in Malaysia necessitate a multifaceted strategy including numerous sectors, laws, and initiatives. Even though the nation has made strides in combating airborne pollutants, there is still much to be done. Here are some methods Malaysia can use to lessen air pollution:

The first step is to put in place and enforce strict emission standards for businesses, cars, power plants, and other sources of pollution. To guarantee that these standards are met, frequent monitoring and compliance checks should be carried out. Second, to lessen reliance on fossil fuels, promote the use of clean and renewable energy sources (SDGs 7), such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. The switch to cleaner energy alternatives can be encouraged by government subsidies and incentives. Third, in order to decrease the number of vehicles on the road and subsequently reduce emissions from the transportation sector, invest in dependable and effective public transportation systems. Promote the use of hybrid and electric vehicles. Fourth, protecting forests and encouraging afforestation and reforestation activities can help remove greenhouse gases and other air pollutants, reducing the effects of air pollution. Fifth, enhance waste management procedures to lessen open burning and unregulated waste disposal (SDG 12), which release dangerous pollutants into the atmosphere. Encourage waste-to-energy and recycling projects. Sixth, encourage businesses to use best practises and cleaner production technologies (SDGs 17) to cut emissions. Encourage the development of industrial processes that are environmentally friendly. Seventh, make the data readily available to the public and strengthen the network of air quality monitoring stations across the nation. To inspire people to take action, increase awareness of the effects of air pollution on human health and the environment. Eighth, because air pollution frequently crosses international borders, Malaysia should work with its neighbours to address transnational air pollution problems and find regional solutions. Ninth, investing in research and innovation will help to create new technologies and solutions for sustainable development and the reduction of air pollution. Last but not least, involve local communities in programmes to improve air quality, motivating them to take part in neighbourhood clean-up efforts and take charge of their environment.

Therefore, effective governance, involvement of the public, and cooperation between the public, private, and civil sectors are necessary for the successful implementation of these strategies. By adopting these measures, Malaysia can significantly improve the environment and public health while reducing air pollution.

Dr. Rulia Akhtar
Research Fellow
Ungku Aziz Centre for Development Studies (UAC)
Office of Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research & Innovation),
Universiti Malaya, Malaysia


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