You may hear so much talk about toxins — in your food, your water, your beauty products — that it can be easy to forget about the most prevalent toxic substance of all, one with which you can't help but interact on a constant basis: the air.
Amid growing concern over global climate change, you may be more aware than ever that the air we breathe is full of contaminants. On Tuesday, the World Health Organization showed the extent of the damage humans have done when it released a report saying that in 2012, 7 million people worldwide died prematurely from causes linked to air pollution. That means one out of every eight deaths was linked to pollution; in other words, nasty air is the biggest environmental threat to your health.
From the WHO's news release:
In particular, the new data reveal a stronger link between both indoor and outdoor air pollution exposure and cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes and ischaemic heart disease, as well as between air pollution and cancer. This is in addition to air pollution’s role in the development of respiratory diseases, including acute respiratory infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.
The new estimates are not only based on more knowledge about the diseases caused by air pollution, but also upon better assessment of human exposure to air pollutants through the use of improved measurements and technology.
What's startling about this information is that it more than doubles previous estimates of deaths caused by air pollution, a reminder that anecdotal knowledge can sometimes be years ahead of data (as anyone who's had the unfortunate experience of trying to run in a smoggy city knows).
While personal lifestyle changes, like driving less and reducing waste, are a step in the right direction, what's really required to effect substantial change is significant legislative and enforcement overhaul. But hey, there's no reason you can't participate in that, too!
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