Pollution causes 400,000 premature deaths annually
In Europe, 400,000 people die prematurely due to air pollution. To put a stop to this growing process, the group of pulmonologists of the Spanish Society of Pulmonology and Thoracic Surgery (SEPAR) are asking the authorities to rethink the permitted levels of air pollution.
The reason is that the European Commission has decided that diesel vehicles can double their polluting emissions until 2019 and from that year the flexibility is limited to 50 percent. The United Kingdom and Germany have led this position that has supported other countries such as Italy, France, Spain and Sweden with interests in the automotive industry.
And it is that annually, pollutants in the air such as nitrogen dioxide or sulfur dioxide cause 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide and 400,000 premature deaths annually in Europe. These figures convert air pollution into the first environmental cause of death and disease, and in the ninth absolute cause ahead of cholesterol or lack of physical exercise.
The impact of contamination on babies and on pregnancy
The negative effects of air pollution affect mainly children, especially pregnancy and newborns. "Exposure to polluting substances during pregnancy increases the risk of lower respiratory tract infections and otitis in one-year-old babies, and it has also been observed that the baby's weight at birth may decrease due to exposure to contamination due to traffic in the prenatal stage, with the consequent implications for lung development, "says pulmonologist Mireia Gascón, a researcher at CREAL (Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology, Barcelona.
Several studies have shown that environmental pollution negatively affects the respiratory health of children and the proper development of their lungs. Currently, acute respiratory infections account for 20 percent of annual deaths in children under 5 years of age worldwide, however this percentage is higher in developing countries where levels of air pollution are much higher than in Europe. . In addition, for people with COPD, a chronic respiratory disease, exposure to contaminated air is a risk factor, especially in the long term.
Health pollution risks
Breathing clean air is essential to enjoy good health and pollution represents a major threat, especially for children, who are the population most sensitive to exposure to these environmental pollutants, "says Dr. Carmen Diego, Area coordinator of the Environment of SEPAR. "Pneumologists and respiratory health professionals, in general, urge the competent authorities to reconsider the decision to increase the permitted levels of air pollution. We also demand that the respective local authorities implement the appropriate measures so that air quality criteria that help protect health are met, "he added.
Other health problems such as strokes, heart disease, lung cancer and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, such as asthma are also related to air pollution, as confirmed by several studies. Currently, 14 percent of deaths caused by air pollution are due to respiratory problems.
Marisol Nuevo Espín