Silent and Deadly: Pollution Kills More People Than Coronavirus

The New Coronavirus (COVID-19), which started in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has spread to more than 28 countries and killed more than 2,000 globally so far since the first case was reported Dec. 31, 2019. New Coronavirus (COVID-9), with the outbreak, started in Wuhan, China, has killed more than 2,000 globally since January. However, more than 21,000 have recovered so far.However, a new study shows that air pollution is more lethal than the outbreak with similar symptoms to those of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) that killed hundreds in 2002 and 2003.


Despite the frantic headlines about coronavirus, air pollution silently kills 7 million worldwide every year as IQAir CEO Frank Hammes said. He added that 90 percent of the global population breathe unsafe air. IQAir is a Swiss-based air quality data provider.


How is Air Pollution Measured?


The higher Air Quality Index (AQI) is, the worse the pollution level is. There are six chemical elements used to measure air quality in a region; average times of the chemicals ozone (O3), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM/Particulate Matter 2.5), and particles smaller than 10 micrometers (PM10).


Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 is a tiny air particle with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or smaller. This particle can reduce visibility once the level increases. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that the standard limit of PM 2.5 is 25 microgram per meter cubic. Also, the colour of the AQI indicator can tell us about the level of pollution. The colors range from green (healthy) to maroon (hazardous).


Which Cities in the World Are the Most Polluted?


The study revealed that India’s capital New Delhi topped the list of the world’s most polluted cities in 2019. In fact, 21 of out of the 30 most polluted cities in the world are located in India.


The study focuses on the level of PM 2.5 in major urban areas. The index showed that in 2019, New Delhi’s average concentration of PM 2.5 reached 98.6, more than double that of Beijing (42.1), which ranked ninth the most polluted city globally.


Several cities in China made progress in decreasing the concentration level of PM 2.5 around up to 9 percent in 2019. Ninety-eight percent of cities in China have exceeded the WHO standard, and 53 percent of cities there have surpassed the country’s not-too-strict air quality standard.


The Leading Causes of Air Pollution


Numerous factors can cause toxic air, such as forest fires, gas emission from motor vehicles and human industrial activities, and volcanic eruption.


However, research shows that all volcanoes across the globe only emit 0.13 to 0.44 billion tons of CO2 annually. While in 2010, various human activities contributed at least 35 billion tons of CO2 emission to the atmosphere, as noted.


A research conducted by the University of Indonesia stated that motor vehicles’ smoke contributes between 70 percent and 80 percent to air pollution in Jakarta as Indonesia’s newspaper Republika reported. Smoke from motor vehicles is more dangerous as it quickly exposes to other people. 


How Dangerous is Air Pollution to Our Health?


Long-term exposure to PM 2.5 can trigger cardiovascular-related disease, and that can eventually lead to stroke and heart attack, according to a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association.


“Exposure to PM <2.5 μm in diameter (PM2.5) over a few hours to weeks can trigger cardiovascular disease-related mortality and nonfatal events; longer-term exposure (e.g., a few years) increases the risk for cardiovascular mortality to an even greater extent than exposures over a few days and reduces life expectancy within more highly exposed segments of the population by several months to a few years.”


The WHO predicts that from 2010 to 2030 there will be an increase in death from lung function failure caused by air pollution, especially in countries with poor transportation management and air pollution control.


As governments around the world are making policies to reduce air pollution, we can do simple things to minimize it by taking public transportation instead of private vehicles, reducing the use of electricity, planting plants that can contain pollutants, and turning to renewable energy.