Air pollution caused 7 million deaths worldwide in 2012 alone, making it the “world’s largest single environmental health risk“, according to the World Health Organisation
The BBC reported in March that one in eight global deaths were linked with air pollution.
Women and children are disproportionately affected. WHO family, woman and children’s health assistant director-general Dr Flavia Bustreo said:
Poor women and children pay a heavy price from indoor air pollution since they spend more time at home breathing in smoke and soot from leaky coal and wood cook stoves.
Reducing indoor air pollution by increasing access to electricity is synonymous with prosperity and public good. But electricity generation from coal comes with a long-term payback.
China is good example of the short-term gain in exchange for long-term pain. Rapid growth in coal-fired power stations has given millions of people access to electricity, thereby raising their quality of life, and reducing indoor air pollution. However, the net result is that the air pollution (and associated climate and health risks) has been pushed outdoors into the local environment and wider atmosphere, the smog ultimately causing permanent and lasting damage for millions of people.
This is not a developing world problem. Poor air quality plagues towns and cities everywhere. Here is a map showing real-time air quality. How’s the air where you live?