KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 30 – Health problems from air pollution are similar to the effects of tobacco use, say experts.
“Living in an area with high pollution is more like living with people who smoke two to three packs a day,” said Arden Pope, a professor of economics at Brigham Young University and world-renowned expert on the impacts of air pollution, according to WebMD.
“Air pollution is the greatest environmental disaster in the world today,” opined Richard Muller, a physicist and climate researcher at the University of California, who has done research on air pollution and its harm to health.
“In my mind, it is scandalous that we’re not paying more attention to it.”
Based on his work, in 2018, the average American was exposed to the health harm of about one-third of a cigarette every day.
According to Muller, while a third of a cigarette a day may not sound like much, it adds up to over a hundred cigarettes in one year, and over 1,000 in 10 years.
The health risks from inhaling air pollution add up, too, hitting every man, woman, and child in the US, he stated.
Other recent research also indicated that inhaling polluted air played a part in the deaths of over eight million people worldwide, more than the number of deaths from tobacco.
“Air pollution really is a silent killer…By the time people have the lung cancer or the heart disease, they think…‘oh, that’s bad luck or bad genes’; they don’t realise that air pollution over many years also may have played a role,” explained Dean Schraufnagel, a University of Illinois at Chicago pulmonologist and director of the Forum of International Respiratory Societies.
Studies also have shown that breathing air with mild increases in air pollution levels over 10 years caused the same type of lung damage seen after 29 years of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day; and that even small increases in particle pollution increase the risk of dying from heart or lung disease and lung cancer.
Furthermore, air pollution causes many other health risks associated with smoking, such as lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease and stroke.
Deteriorating air conditions can also worsen medical problems like asthma and heart disease.
Worldwide, research shows that cleaner air from lower emissions leads to less asthma, lungs that work better, and less coughing, congestion, and mucus in young children.