The Air Quality Problem
Pollution is the greatest environmental cause of disease and premature death in the world.
Air pollution shortens the lives of more than 40,000 people in the UK alone today. Air pollution is estimated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to have caused over 6.5 million, or 11%, of all deaths worldwide – more than twice the deaths from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined, and ten times more than from all wars and other forms of violence. The WHO has estimated that pollution-related diseases cause productivity losses and result in healthcare costs that are responsible for 1·7% of annual health spending in high-income countries.
Pollutants come from a variety of sources, including road transport, agriculture, central heating systems, and industrial activity. Existing sources of pollution are not going to go away anytime soon, despite some much-publicised measures being proposed by governments and local authorities.
We are working with a number of governments and donor agencies…on pollution and health…and their initial response is ‘we’re not sure how big a problem this is – Where is the data?
Of all the different risk factors for premature deaths, this is one area, the air we breathe, over which individuals have little control. Policy makers in health and environment agencies, as well as leaders in various industries, are facing growing demands – and expectations – to address this problem.
Air pollution is a challenge that threatens basic human welfare, damages natural and physical capital, and constrains economic growth. By supporting healthier cities and investments in cleaner sources of energy, we can reduce dangerous emissions, slow climate change, and most importantly save lives.