By Shandra Bellinger

We’ve all heard of how damaging air pollution is and the many health diseases it’s been linked to, for instance heart disease, strokes, respiratory illnesses, premature births and dementia (see my prior blog post entitled, “How does air pollution affect your body”). However, even with these known associations, globally, all governments have not been enacting precautions to help regulate the production of air pollution. Take for instance, in Britain; they have approximately 40,000 premature deaths per year due to air pollution.

Air pollution pyramid

Source: https://www.epa.gov/benmap/how-benmap-ce-estimates-health-and-economic-effects-air-pollution

Europe as a whole has worse air pollution than the US in part due to the continued embrace of diesel cars and failure to enforce pollution rules, amongst other factors.

Air poluttion in Europe

Source: https://www.who.int/airpollution/infographics/en/

To bring the effects of air pollution to the spotlight, a mother from London has requested air pollution be added to her daughters death certificate. An article published by the New York Times last month, entitled, “The Mother Who Wants to Put Air Pollution on Her Daughter’s Death Certificate” explains the association between the daughter’s hospitalizations with the local air pollution levels, showing a positive relationship between the two. Suggesting that air pollution was a contributing factor to her death. Though difficult to prove a direct causation, my question is, what would change subsequently if air pollution were listed as a cause of death? Would the government modify their guidelines? What criteria would an individual have to meet in order to have air pollution listed as a cause of death? And, how many people would have to die from air pollution, for the government to enact real change? I think having air pollution as an official cause of death is a start because it may be seen as a Public Health Emergency, and the public outcry may cause governments around the world to act, but how quickly, is the real question. What do you think?

Shandra Bellinger

About the author -- Shandra Bellinger is a recent graduate of the M.S. in Biomedical Sciences at Larkin University College of Biomedical Sciences. Shandra is also an Research Assistant-Intern in the RIPL_Effect Research Team under the mentorship of principal investigator, Dr. Félix E. Rivera-Mariani. Shandra, original from Maryland, has among her main goals to be a physician in the near future. Learn more about Shandra here.

References:

  • https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/13/opinion/ella-kissi-debrah-pollution-london.html
  • https://www.epa.gov/benmap/how-benmap-ce-estimates-health-and-economic-effects-air-pollution
  • https://www.who.int/airpollution/infographics/en/