Polluted city air poses lung, heart disease risks to Asians

April 2, 2019

The WHO has estimated that most Asian city dwellers breathe polluted air. Air pollution kills about 7 million people prematurely each year, with 1.5 million of those deaths in South and Southeast Asia. The health impact of air pollution is now equal to the effects of smoking tobacco, including lung cancer and heart disease.

Vital Strategies, a public health advisory group, has analysed more than half a million news articles, social media posts, blogs, and online forums on air pollution in 11 countries across southern Asia between 2015 and 2018, where the public debate is largely focused on vehicle emissions – not the biggest or only source of air pollution in South/Southeast Asia.Other major causes include coal power plants, construction, festival fireworks, forest clearing, and burning of crops, firewood and waste.

Lead author, Singaporean Aanchal Mehta has said that much content relates to the environment, climate change or deforestation, but not many relates to health risks from chronic exposure apart from itchy eyes and coughing – possibly because people don’t attribute or understand that air pollution has longer-term health impacts, some of which can be fatal.

So far, policymakers only look at one cause of the problem, but emotionally-charged content, such as effects on children’s health could help in the development of strategies to tackle air pollution.

Mehta has advised having more government awareness campaigns, and Oswar Mungkasa, Jakarta’s deputy governor for spatial planning and environment, has insisted on structuring long-term, practical and effective solutions to the issue of air pollution.

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Category: Features, Health alert

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