Air pollution, climate change greatest threat to global health: Report


Feb 23: The World Health Organization released its annual report highlighting the greatest threats to public health this week, with climate change and pollution topping the list.

The UN body, which focuses on monitoring health standards worldwide, and is a major part of UN interventions in health emergencies, has launched a new 5-year plan of action in 2019.

Air pollution was the greatest source of concern, with the organization saying that 90% of the world’s population was exposed to it on a daily basis.

According to their estimates, it is the cause of 7 million deaths every year.

The Eastern Mediterranean region is one of the most affected, where an estimated “493,00 die every year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air that penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system,” the WHO said in a 2018 report.

This can cause diseases “such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia,” the report added.

Natural sources were said to be accountable for at least 50% of this phenomenon, with the region being especially vulnerable to dust storms.

Israel and other countries faced a severe dust storm just this week, caused by a deep depression over the eastern Mediterranean, which causes the movement of dust from Egypt to Israel.

However, man-made pollution took the brunt of the blame, with burning fossil fuels named as the primary cause of pollution.

The organization also warned about the associated dangers of a changing climate.

“Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress,” this week’s report warned.

Among the other concerns for global health, the WHO cited noncommunicable and communicable diseases, and warned against a global flu pandemic.

It also highlighted systemic issues, such as weak primary health care, and the dangers of fragile environments, especially those facing challenges such as drought, famine, conflict, and population displacement.

“1.6 billion people (22% of the global population) live in places where protracted crises leave them without access to basic care,” the WHO said.

Two other factors, antimicrobial resistance and vaccine hesitancy were also pointed out.

Antimicrobial resistance could potentially bring back diseases that were believed to have been eradicated, like turbeculosis.

Vaccine hesitancy made headlines last year in Israel, when a measles epidemic broke out in part because of failing herd immunity, due to vaccine hesitancy within some sectors of the population.

Measles cases were up by 30% over the last year worldwide. AGENCIES

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