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Worksheet 6.

3: Air pollution
Air pollution killed 7 million in 2012
According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, air pollution claimed 7 million lives in
2012. The majority of deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries. Some 12.5 per
cent of premature deaths in 2012 were due, in part, to air pollution. This is double the levels
reported in previous years due to more accurate measures
of pollution in both outdoor and indoor environments and in a wider range of rural areas.
Analysis of life expectancy in more and less polluted regions of China suggests that air
quality has a more important impact on health than previously believed. In March 2014, the
WHO confirmed that the risks from air pollution are now far greater than was previously
thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and strokes. Few risks have a greater
impact on global health than air pollution.

Some northern areas had particulate pollution that was 55 per cent (or 184 g
(micrograms) per cubic metre) higher than in southern regions. Residents of these
regions had a life expectancy 5.5 years shorter than their southern neighbours. The
diference was almost entirely attributable to deaths from cardiorespiratory illnesses.

Long-term exposure to each additional 100 g per cubic metre of particulate pollution
correlated with a 3- year reduction in life expectancy at birth an estimate more than
five times larger than was previously considered to be the case.

The most dangerous form of outdoor air pollution is the particulate matter from coal-burning
power plants and diesel vehicles (Figure 1). Indoor air pollution mainly comes from the use of
coal, wood, or biomass (mostly dung) as cooking fuel.

Figure 1 Exposure to particulate matter with a diameter of 10 m

or less (PM10)
in urban areas, 200310 (1100 urban areas were

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According to one Environmental Health Oficer, cooking over an open fire is equivalent to burning
400 cigarettes
an hour. Outdoor pollution was implicated in 3.7 million deaths and indoor air pollutants played a
role in
4.3 million deaths (Figures 2 and 3). Some deaths resulted from exposure to both.

Figure 2 Deaths caused by outdoor air pollution

breakdown by disease.

Figure 3 Deaths caused by indoor air pollution breakdown by disease.

The highest per capita death rates due to both types of pollution occurred in Western Pacific
nations such as China and Japan, along with Pacific Islands. South East Asia and Africa were
hard hit by indoor air pollution. Outdoor air pollution was worst in the cities of Arab nations
and northern India. But the pattern of deaths also revealed economic diferences within
countries. Per capita death rates were significantly higher among low- and middle-income
nations in Europe and the Western Pacific region. In the Americas, by contrast, per capita
deaths were more than twice as high in richer nations.
The core problem, according to WHO, is the failure to implement cleaner alternatives for
transportation, energy and industry. The dirtiest cities were not the economic powerhouses of
India and China, which had introduced eforts to improve air quality. Excessive air pollution is
often a by-product of unsustainable policies in sectors such as waste management, energy,
and transport.
According to the UN and WHO, many developing countries have yet to implement basic
clean-up strategies, such as replacing older diesel vehicles with newer, cleaner models, and
designing roads and signage to ease congestion.

Smog in the UK, 2014

In April 2014, the UK experienced an episode of ground-level smog. In addition to this, dust
from the Sahara was blown north to Britain. The smog occurred during a high pressure
(anticyclone) weather system in which there were relatively calm conditions with typically
low wind speeds.

Professor Frank Kelly (chair of the Department of Health's Committee on the Medical Efects of Air
Pollution and a
member of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Afairs' Air Quality Expert
Group) stated that children should not be allowed to use playgrounds in areas with severe
pollution. This is because children tend to run around outside and therefore breathe deeper.
Thus, on days with poor air quality they will be inhaling a lot more pollution outdoors than
when they are breathing normally inside. One of the main issues related to pollution
exposure on a chronic basis is that lung growth is restricted. If there is no subsequent catchup lung growth then this respiratory deficit is carried forward through life. Children are
particularly at risk as their lungs are developing.
The British Lung Foundation urged people in afected areas who cycle, walk, or run to work
to avoid doing so at rush hour and to use backstreets if possible, and for people with lung
conditions such as asthma to avoid doing strenuous exercise outdoors.
In Oxfordshire, it is claimed that 1 in 20 deaths is linked to air pollution. Public Health
England linked long-term exposure to small particles in the air to 276 deaths in 2010. Air
pollution in the UK remains above the EU target. Any deaths related to air pollution are a
concern, but not a cause for alarm according to one spokesman.

Describe the pattern of PM10 pollution as shown in Figure 1.
[3 marks]
It is the most dangerous outdoor gas, and it is mostly located in LEDCs, where there are less
awareness. Furthermore, it is mostly in SEA and Africa. However, in more economically developed
countries, there is more awareness, hence why there is a lower concentration of PM10 pollution.
Compare and contrast the number of deaths due to outdoor air pollution and indoor air
pollution. [4 marks]
4.3 million people killed indoors, and 3.7 million people killed outdoors.
Under what climatic conditions does poor air quality develop?
[3 marks]
It occurs in windy and warm/cold areas.
Outline the impacts of air quality in China on life expectancy.
[3 marks]
- high death rate
- low birth rate
- heart diseases

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