The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that the Philippines ranks third in mortality rate caused by air pollution.
In an article from Rappler, a WHO study revealed that the Philippines had 45.3 deaths per 100,000 individuals due to outdoor air pollution. China ranked first at 81.5 deaths recorded while Mongolia was second at 48.8 deaths.
Experts urge government to improve air quality
Outgoing CAMANAVA Governor of the Philippine Medical Association, Dr. Roger Dazo said, “45.3 deaths per 100,000 Filipinos due to air pollution is 45.3 Filipinos too many.”
Health Care Without Harm Executive Director Ramon San Pascual said that aside from being an environmental problem, air pollution is a “health menace” as well.
Esperanza Cabral, former health department secretary, said efforts should be focused on addressing root causes of health problems in order to prevent deaths.
“It is time we embrace the adage of putting a premium on prevention of disease over cure… We address air pollution, we address these diseases,” Cabral said.
Urban air quality on a decline
Reports from WHO stated that more than 80 percent of the people residing in urban areas are exposed to poor air quality. Data also showed that low income level cities are greatly affected.
“Air pollution threatens us all, but the poorest and most marginalized people bear the brunt of the burden,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
Latest urban air quality database showed that 98 percent of the cities in low and middle income countries with a population of more than 100,000 do not meet the WHO guidelines.
“Many of the world’s megacities exceed WHO’s guideline levels for air quality by more than 5 times, representing a major risk to people’s health,” said Dr Maria Neira, Director of the Department of Public Health, Social and Environmental Determinants of Health at WHO.
As such, WHO director-general also revealed that globally, over three billion people – mostly women and children – inhale deadly smoke daily from using polluting stoves and fuels in their homes.
“If we don’t take urgent action on air pollution, we will never come close to achieving sustainable development.” Ghebreyesus warned.
Air pollution diseases contributing to mortality rate
Around seven million people die annually from exposure to fine particles in polluted air that penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, thus causing stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia.
Air pollution is said to be a critical risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), causing an estimated one-quarter (24 percent) of all adult deaths from heart disease, 25 percent from stroke, 43 percent from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 29 percent from lung cancer.
Major sources of air pollution include the inefficient use of energy by households, industry, the agriculture and transport sectors, and coal-fired power plants. In some regions, sand and desert dust, waste burning and deforestation are additional sources of air pollution. Air quality can also be influenced by natural elements such as geographic, meteorological and seasonal factors.
Addressing air pollution problems
“We are seeing an acceleration of political interest in this global public health challenge. The increase in cities recording air pollution data reflects a commitment to air quality assessment and monitoring. Most of this increase has occurred in high-income countries, but we hope to see a similar scale-up of monitoring efforts worldwide.” Neira stated.
Most sources of urban outdoor air pollution are well beyond the control of individuals and demand action by cities, as well as national and international policymakers to promote cleaner transport, more efficient energy production and waste management.
“Awareness is rising and more cities are monitoring their air quality. When air quality improves, global respiratory and cardiovascular-related illnesses decrease.” Neira added.