Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ahem, Cough, Gasp

(Cartoon by Lee Judge published 3/3/14 in the Kansas City Star and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge and then drag yourself back here.)

Unfortunately, it's not just the conservatives burying their heads in the sand when it comes to climate change.  Most of the world is ignoring the consequences of using carbon based fuel.  Maybe the latest report from the World Health Organization will get some attention.  Maybe.

From the L.A. Times:

Air pollution kills about 7 million people a year and is linked to 1 in 8 deaths worldwide, according to a report released Tuesday by the World Health Organization.
The finding more than doubles previous estimates “and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk,” the agency said.
An estimated 4.3 million people died in 2012 as a result of indoor air pollution, mostly from cooking inside with coal or wood stoves in developing countries, according to the report by the public health agency of the United Nations. An additional 3.7 million died from outdoor air pollution.

Many people are exposed to both indoor and outdoor air pollution, so deaths attributed to each cannot simply be added together, the agency noted. Because of the overlap, the combined estimate for 2012 is about 7 million deaths.

“The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and strokes,” said Maria Neira, the agency's public health and environment director.   ...

The greatest health risk is posed by fine particles -- also known as PM2.5 -- which include diesel soot, wood smoke and chemical-laden droplets. Experts say those combustion particles, less than 1/30th the width of a human hair, cause most of the fatalities because they penetrate deep into the lungs, inflame the airways and put strain on the heart and other organs.

”People don’t die of air pollution alone; they die of other things the pollution tends to exacerbate,” said Michael Kleinman, a professor of toxicology at UC Irvine, who was not involved with the report. “It's a contributor to many deaths, and the more we learn, the more effects can be attributed to air pollution."

Last year the WHO's cancer research arm declared air pollution a human carcinogen, saying it increases the risk of lung and bladder cancer.

Reducing pollution levels could save millions of lives, according to the agency.
“The evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe,” Neira said.  [Emphasis added]

The report attributes many of the deaths, especially in Asia and other lesser-developed nations to the use of coal and wood burned to cook meals.  That said, in the industrialized nations much of the air pollution is caused by the burning of carbon-based materials such as natural gas and oil as demands for energy increase, especially in areas hard hit by climate change.

Yes, reducing pollution levels would save millions of lives, and, yes, a concerted action to clean up the air (and the water and the ground) is necessary.  Now, all we need is the will to do so.

How long, O Lord, how long?

NOTE:  The W.H.O report is available here.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is the G-rated, family blog version of where they have stuck their head.


3:23 PM  

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