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Air Pollution: The World’s Biggest Environmental Health Risk

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Air Pollution: The World’s Biggest Environmental Health Risk

What’s in the air?
The cause of seven million deaths in 2012, air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk, according to a recent report from the World Health Organization.

On March 25, WHO revealed that air pollution exposure caused one in eight of total global deaths.

In 2012, low- and middle-income countries in the Southeast Asia and Western Pacific regions experienced the biggest air pollution-related burden. A total of 3.3 million deaths were attributed to indoor air pollution, while 2.6 million deaths were attributed to outdoor air pollution.

New data shows that both indoor and outdoor air pollution play a strong role in the development of cancer, respiratory diseases and cardiovascular diseases, including strokes.

“Poor women and children pay a heavy price from indoor air pollution since they spend more time at home breathing in smoke and soot from leaky coal and wood cook stoves,” said Flavia Bustreo, M.D., WHO assistant director-general family, women and children’s health.

A 2011 study discovered not only that substantial areas of the U.S. lack air pollution monitoring data, but also that low-income and minority communities—particularly those with poor children of color—tend to experience higher contamination levels.

Environmental Health News also reported that the larger the concentration of African Americans, Latinos or poor residents in an area, the more likely that potentially dangerous compounds like zinc, nitrates and vanadium are in the air they breathe.

As for the U.S. metropolitan areas that fare the worst, Los Angeles; Cincinnati; St. Louis; and Fresno, California, are among the cities with dangerous levels of toxic compounds and large concentrations of poor people of color.

“Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe,” says Maria Neira, M.D., director of WHO’s department for public health, environmental and social determinants of health.

For more about air pollution’s impact on public health,

go to BET.com.

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Patrice Peck/BET.com