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- Environmental and Health Impacts of Air Pollution: A Review
- Environmental and Health Impacts of Air Pollution: A Review
- How pollution impacts human health
Environmental pollution is reaching worrying proportions worldwide.
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Pollution touches all parts of the planet. It is affecting our health through the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Approximately 19 million premature deaths are estimated to occur annually as a result of the way we use natural resources to support global production and consumption and which impact the environment.
Approximately 19 million premature deaths are estimated to occur annually as a result of the way we use natural resources and impact the environment to support global production and consumption. How does pollution fit in that picture? Pollution can take many forms, ranging from organic compounds and other chemical substances to different types of energy.
Some types of pollution are easily noticed, such as certain forms of contaminated water, poor air quality, industrial waste, litter , light, heat and noise.
Others are less visible, for example pesticides in food, mercury in fish, excess nutrients in the sea and lakes, endocrine-disrupting chemicals in drinking water, and other micro- pollutants in fresh and marine water. Some, such as those coming from abandoned industrial sites, armed conflict zones, nuclear power stations, pesticide stockpiles and waste landfills , form part of a longer-term legacy.
The sources and types of pollution are highly diverse, as are the solutions to deal with them. For example, hazardous chemicals in paints, cleaning compounds, dyes, electronic products, and many other household substances can become pollutants if not managed correctly. Ecosystem functions are put at risk as well.
There are also many emerging and novel products, such as some therapeutic drugs and nanomaterials , for which data on potential pollution effects are sparse. On the other hand, food waste globally has been estimated to be as high as one third of all food produced for human consumption — nearly 1. Figure 3: Major sources of today's pollution. Market demand on one side of the planet is often satisfied by labour, production and natural resources originating from halfway across the globe.
Fossil fuels now account for 50 per cent of the global trade volume. Research finds that trade leads to a redistribution of environmental burden towards countries that extract and produce resources. As such, the environmental impacts and pollution generated by global consumption habits are disassociated from those most impacted locally. Trade patterns, policies and agreements can play a crucial role in internalizing some of the environmental and social costs of production in order to minimize pollution at a global scale.
One important source of air pollution is indoor air pollution produced by the use of solid fuels for cooking in the house. The other major source of air pollution is outdoor pollution resulting from the burning of fossil fuels.
Wildfires, the burning of waste, and tobacco smoke, all also contribute to air pollution. It is estimated that nine out of ten people in the world are breathing air that is polluted beyond the World Health Organisation WHO acceptable standards. Land and soil pollution is largely due to agricultural practices, to improper irrigation, to solid waste management problems such as landfills , and to a range of industrial, military and extractive activities.
Globally, estimates indicate that at least 1 million people are unintentionally poisoned every year by excessive exposure and inappropriate use of pesticides , with health effects on all.
The waste products of industrial processes or mining activities are another source of pollution as they may contain heavy metals , pharmaceuticals and microorganisms , which can be difficult to remove once they find their way into the environment. Former industrial or military sites that are no longer in use can also be the sources of pollutants if they are not decontaminated properly. Rivers and lakes are heavily affected by pollution, especially by the excess nutrients that come from the use of fertilisers in agriculture, one of the most pervasive water quality issues on a global scale , interfering with many human water uses and causing major shifts of species in ecosystems and loss of biodiversity.
Over 80 per cent of the world's wastewater is released to the environment without treatment creating a pollution from pathogens as well as from chemicals such as heavy metals from mining and industrial waste. These lead to a loss of biodiversity and to water that is improper for human consumption.
Marine and coastal pollution. Oceans receive most of their pollutants from land through rivers in the form of nutrients , waste, heavy metals and plastic debris which fragment into pieces of less than 5 mm but do not biodegrade in the marine environment. The rest comes from the fishing, shipping, and energy industries. The impacts of ocean acidification, which are for a large part associated with the dissolution of carbon dioxide emissions, are most visible on marine species with calcareous skeletons, such as corals and plankton which form the base of many marine food webs.
The severity of a pollutant for human health and ecosystems is dependent on its chemical nature and intrinsic toxicity, quantities emitted, exposure concentrations and persistence.
Highly hazardous chemicals, such as mercury , ammonium, ozone, and some organic compounds used in a range of industries have the potential to cause cancer , birth defects , induce genetic damage, cause miscarriage, injury or death from relatively small exposures , if released into the environment. The specific harm caused by different pollutants depends not only on the environment where it is emitted air, water or soil but also possibly on the mix of pollutants that are present and the actual level of exposure.
For example, about million people in the world are exposed to asbestos at the workplace with over , still dying annually from such exposure. Pollution poses a direct threat to respecting, protecting and promoting human rights and gender equality, international human rights obligations related to health, life, food and water.
Due to their general health status, potential higher exposures and reduced resilience to social, environmental and economic risks, pollution can have a particularly disproportionate and negative effect on the poor, the disadvantaged, the marginalized, indigenous peoples, the disabled and the vulnerable.
In addition, many toxic dumpsites are located in poor areas, leading to environmental injustice. Figure 1: Examples of impacts on human health and ecosystem. Pollution has also significant economic costs from the point of view of health, productivity losses, health-care costs and ecosystem damages.
For instance, in it was estimated that the cost of air pollution was more than 5 billion USD, which is more than the annual budget of the United States. These substantial costs, are expected to rise over time, not only because of the direct effect of pollution on health, but also because of the impact of weakened livelihoods, as well as the longer-term impact on ecosystem services , that in turn affect local communities , societies and economies.
With a better understanding of the economic costs of pollution, the human costs of pollution are critical information for decision-making and to support more effective policies.
Pollution is not a new phenomenon; it is largely controllable and often avoidable, but still considerably neglected. Thanks to better knowledge, alternative consumption and production models, as well as innovative technological solutions, many countries, cities, and businesses can now successfully tackling serious pollution issues.
Today, a majority of UN Member States recognize environmental rights. The first Principles of both the Stockholm and Rio Declarations focused on the human right to a safe and clean environment.
These declarations have, together with other principles, informed many national constitutions over the past three decades. At the same time, voluntary environmental initiatives have supported more formal environmental agreements, resulting in progress in some areas.
But even more robust governance frameworks are required to bring us closer to a pollution-free planet. In particular, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations 1 provide an opportunity to accelerate the implementation of targeted and time-bound actions on pollution, which have been hitherto limited and inadequate.
With regards to chemicals and waste, legally binding approaches at the global level are essential to addressing the most critical and complex pollution challenges.
Existing multilateral environmental agreements already enable actions. This was notably in relation to the ban and substitution of ozone-depleting substances achieved in , to the elimination of persistent organic pollutants and of most hazardous industrial chemicals and pesticides in international trade, as well as to hazardous and household waste and in particular to mercury with the entry into force of the Minamata Convention in Several of the multilateral environmental agreements were ratified worldwide or nearly worldwide.
Today, a majority of UN Member States recognizes environmental rights. As of , over countries guaranteed their citizens a right to a healthy environment, with the majority of countries building this into their national constitutions. Although no international agreement explicitly recognizes the right to a healthy environment, national constitutions have played a vital role at the forefront of human rights and environmental protection.
The majority of constitutional environmental rights include substantive, procedural, and emerging rights, such as the right to health and food, while others refer to policy-based, reciprocal-duty, and miscellaneous provisions.
Encouragingly, more governments, industries and citizens are moving towards sustainable materials management, greater resource efficiency, less environmentally damaging chemistry, clean technologies, and circular economies, as part of a more comprehensive transformation towards a sustainable economy. Trade can lead to greater environmental burdens in countries that extract and produce resources, as such activities generate waste and emissions.
But trade can also provide solutions in terms of improved environmental goods and services. However, the capacity to adequately tackle pollution varies hugely across regions, social groups and genders. At the same time, responses by governments, business and citizens to pollution remain sometimes limited in scope and scale and to date, there are no legally binding agreements that systematically address pollution in all its forms.
If global and regional environmental agreements provide a partial framework, there are many gaps. For example, some agreements are only target-based, some are time-bound, while others cover also compliance-related actions, monitoring and reporting.
For example, voluntary initiatives and global alliances — on topics such as fuel efficiency improvements, cleaner air and lead in paint — have addressed some of the more urgent issues, yet much more remains to be done to control and prevent pollution.
It is obvious from many case studies that tackling pollution has already brought multiple benefits even if current responses may still be limited and inadequate. Projections indicate that further actions have the potential to enhance both health, well-being, and the economy.
Two success stories show what can be achieved: the healing of the ozone layer and the phasing out of lead in fuel. However, these technologies also require materials and energy upfront to produce the equipment, and as a consequence, may increase environmental impacts. Solutions to help remove pollutants and detoxify our environment exist around the world. These need to be expanded, shared, and scaled up in order to avoid risking further exposure of humans and ecosystems to current and future pollution as well as increasing the costs of clean up.
Improved risk assessment of new pollution sources is also urgently needed. Resource efficiency over the whole production -consumption system in particular can generate products which are identical or have the same functionality as when using traditional technologies and processes, while also reducing critical emissions and mitigating resource requirements and environmental impacts in the upstream processes.
Moving to less-polluting and nature-based technologies also offers economic and employment opportunities. Renewable energy provided jobs for 9. Waste recycling and reuse also offers the chance to convert waste into economic opportunities, including jobs.
As secondary materials replace virgin materials for example phosphate from fertilizer nutrient recovery , they reduce the resource and environmental footprint of growth, but they can also have income and job impacts on primary exporting countries. Thus, careful and inclusive transition planning is required for those affected by these transformations. Implementation gaps are in particular due to a lack of resources; inadequate administrative, financial, institutional and technical capacity, and the absence of inter-ministerial coordination and political will.
Absence of inter-ministerial coordination being a key reason why action does not happen. There is also insufficient recognition by different actors that producer and consumer choices have pollution consequences. Such choices — even in the presence of pollution policies and regulations — can be made out of habit, a feeling that one person or firm cannot make a difference. As already underlined, existing international environmental agreements and the Agenda for Sustainable Development present significant opportunities to accelerate actions to tackle pollution and improve the well-being of humans and ecosystems.
These links are detailed in the appendices of the report. A pollution-free planet is by far and away the best insurance for the survival and well-being of current and future generations of humans and ecosystems. To advance this goal, this report has the following five overarching messages.
To reach these objectives, this report suggests a dual track of actions as framework for actions on pollution that UN Member States and other stakeholders may wish to consider to curb pollution around the world. This dual framework consists in the following combination:. This dual track of actions is guided and underpinned by the two other elements of the framework:.
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Environmental and Health Impacts of Air Pollution: A Review
Atmospheric pollution is not the only type of contamination that is harming living beings on the planet. And according to the European Environment Agency EEA , noise is responsible for 16, premature deaths and more than 72, hospitalisations every year in Europe alone. According to the WHO, noise is harmful when it exceeds 75 decibels dB and feels painful at levels above dB. Drivers honking the horn, groups of workers drilling the road surface, aircraft flying over us in the sky Noise, noise and more noise.
One of our era's greatest scourges is air pollution, on account not only of its impact on climate change but also its impact on public and individual health due to increasing morbidity and mortality. There are many pollutants that are major factors in disease in humans. Among them, Particulate Matter PM , particles of variable but very small diameter, penetrate the respiratory system via inhalation, causing respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, reproductive and central nervous system dysfunctions, and cancer. Despite the fact that ozone in the stratosphere plays a protective role against ultraviolet irradiation, it is harmful when in high concentration at ground level, also affecting the respiratory and cardiovascular system. Furthermore, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, Volatile Organic Compounds VOCs , dioxins, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons PAHs are all considered air pollutants that are harmful to humans.
Environmental and Health Impacts of Air Pollution: A Review
Water pollution occurs when a body of water becomes contaminated, usually by chemicals or microorganisms. Water pollution can cause water to become toxic to humans and the environment. Water is an essential resource for all life on Earth. If a water source becomes contaminated due to pollution, it can lead to health issues in humans, such as cancer or cardiovascular conditions. This article explores the causes of water pollution, how it can affect human health, and what people can do to help prevent it.
How pollution impacts human health
Not a MyNAP member yet? Register for a free account to start saving and receiving special member only perks. The goals for a transition toward sustainability, as we set them out in Chapter 1, are to meet human needs over the next two generations while reducing hunger and poverty and preserving our environmental life support systems. The activities to approach this goal can only move ahead within the constraints set by resources and the environment. In this chapter, we therefore ask two related questions:.
Once production of your article has started, you can track the status of your article via Track Your Accepted Article. Help expand a public dataset of research that support the SDGs. Environmental Pollution is an international peer-reviewed journal that publishes high quality research papers and review articles about all aspects of environmental pollution and its effects on ecosystems and human health. The journal welcomes high-quality process-oriented and hypothesis-based submissions
PDF | This study describes an investigation of effects of environmental pollution as a result of outflow from the coal processing industry. Coal is.
Approach to the Problem
Human impacts on the environment or anthropogenic impact on the environment includes changes to biophysical environments  and ecosystems , biodiversity , and natural resources   caused directly or indirectly by humans, including global warming ,   environmental degradation  such as ocean acidification   , mass extinction and biodiversity loss ,     ecological crisis , and ecological collapse. Modifying the environment to fit the needs of society is causing severe effects, which become worse as the problem of human overpopulation continues. Some of the problems, including global warming and biodiversity loss pose an existential risk to the human race,   and human overpopulation is strongly correlated with those problems. The term anthropogenic designates an effect or object resulting from human activity. The term was first used in the technical sense by Russian geologist Alexey Pavlov , and it was first used in English by British ecologist Arthur Tansley in reference to human influences on climax plant communities. Overconsumption is a situation where resource use has outpaced the sustainable capacity of the ecosystem. It can be measured by the ecological footprint , a resource accounting approach which compares human demand on ecosystems with the amount of planet matter ecosystems can renew.
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