Air pollution is a pressing issue responsible for a lot of the global burden of lung and heart disease. Research from Santé Publique France [Public Health France] showed that air pollution in France has decreased life expectancy by as much as 15 months and is the cause of more than 48,000 deaths per year. It is estimated that 34,000 deaths per year are preventable if appropriate measures are taken in reducing the extent of air pollution.
Chronic exposure to fine particulates in the air can lead to lung complications, heart disease, and many other illnesses. As a result, air pollution can decrease life expectancy significantly. Public health professionals have warned that with our increasing global urbanization the burden of air pollution on human health will go up, likewise. Consequently, numerous prevention measures have been adopted to minimize the release of fine particulates into the air. These come in the form policies, eco-friendly engineering, and encouraging environmentally-conscious actions. Despite this, air pollution remains to be prevalent.
Researchers from Santé Publique France [Public Health France] investigated the effects of airborne particulates (e.g. vehicle exhaust), on the human population. They were able to show that life expectancy was decreased by 15 months for adults over the age of 30 years living in urban centres, and about 10 months in rural regions. About 48,000 deaths a year in France were attributable to air pollution. The researchers suggested that almost 34,000 deaths annually could be prevented if fine particulate matter is decreased to the levels seen in the 5% of areas with the lowest pollution.
In light of the health and environmental effects of air pollution, Santé Publique France called for increased measures to reduce air pollution in France. For example, introduction of vehicle tolls to discourage citizens from unnecessary driving, and the use of bicycles was encouraged instead. Moreover, they called for the creation of policies that will restrict and reduce industrial emissions, a major source of air pollution. Thus far, the government of France has made several attempts at limiting air pollution. In March 2014, they ordered driving restrictions in Paris, where cars with odd numbered plates drove one day, while even numbered plates drive the next.
Researchers demonstrated that air pollution is responsible for severe health consequences and can decrease life expectancy significantly. To this end, several measures have been called for to limit air pollution and counter its negative effects. If we wish to combat it, governments, policy makers, and the general public must come together as a group and work collectively to bring down air pollution to acceptable levels.
Written By: Haisam Shah, BSc