37,000 die from air pollution a year | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 28, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:22 AM, September 28, 2016

37,000 die from air pollution a year

WHO study says about Bangladesh

Over 37,000 Bangladeshis die annually from diseases related to air pollution, said World Health Organization.

Stroke and ischemic heart diseases are the major factors in the deaths, nearly 21,000, while acute lower respiratory infection, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and lung cancer contribute to the rest of the deaths, the UN agency said in a statement yesterday.

The average age of death is 38 years. 

The figure for Bangladesh is the third highest in the WHO's Southeast Asian Regional Office (SEARO) region that comprises 11 Asian countries.

With more than 6.21 lakh deaths, India tops the list in the region, followed by Indonesia with over 61,000 deaths.

“Air pollution is the world's biggest environmental risk to health and must be addressed on a priority basis as it continues to rise,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director for WHO South-East Asia.

“The magnitude of the health impact of air pollution calls for urgent action to prevent these avoidable risks and deaths,” she said. 

The WHO issued the statement after releasing a report titled “Ambient Air Pollution: A Global Assessment of Exposure and Burden of Disease”.

British newspaper The Guardian reported that China is the world's deadliest country for outdoor air pollution which causes death to more than a million people each year.

The UN agency previously warned that tiny particulates from cars, power plants and other sources were killing 3 million people worldwide each year, added the report.

For the first time, the WHO has broken down the figure to a country-by-country level. It said most of the air pollution comes from cars, coal-fired plants and waste burning, but not all of it is created by humans. Dust storms in places close to deserts also contribute to dirty air.

Most of the total deaths worldwide -- two out of three -- occur in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific regions, which include China, Vietnam, Japan, Australia, South Korea and small Pacific island states.

Sixteen scientists from eight international institutions worked with WHO on the analysis, which gathered data from 3,000 locations, using pollution monitors on the ground, modelling and satellite readings.

Gavin Shaddick, who led the international team that put together the data, said: “The real driver of ill health is ultra-fine particles, 2.5s -- they have the ability to permeate the membrane of the lungs and enter our blood system.”

Poonam said introduction of clean and sustainable energy policies and efficient cooking technologies are a key part of the actions needed to clean up household air pollution caused by the burning of solid fuel such as wood for cooking purposes.

Addressing outdoor air pollution requires a focus on the sources of pollution through a whole-of-government approach. Solutions go beyond simply controlling emissions and should include choices that actively promote health, she observed.

Further efforts and investments should be made to encourage as many cities and countries in the region to closely monitor air quality, Poonam noted.

Maria Neria, director at the WHO's public health and the environment department, told The Guardian that Canada and Scandinavian countries deserved praise for curbing air pollution.

“France is taking a lot of action, Paris is taking aggressive measures: aggressive in the good sense. [It] maybe unpopular because it's for the health of people but they are putting some restrictions on individuals. We all need to understand this is a matter of public health,” she said.

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