Air Pollution the Cause of 3.3 Million Deaths

by rtharby on October 8, 2016 - 10:31pm

In the article “Shock figures to reveal deadly toll of global air pollution” the Guardian reports that the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a health warning about deadly levels of air pollution.The high levels of smog are appearing in cities with high population growth, and is created by mix of transport fumes, construction dust, toxic gases from power generation and wood burning in homes. The data was taken from a sample of 2,000 cities reveals that millions are at risk for chronic diseases such as; pneumonia, asthma, blood and cardiovascular diseases, and even dementia. The main actors in this issue are local and federal governments, highly industrialized corporations and businesses, WHO, and individuals who use GHG emitting vehicles regularly. The article reveals that according to the UN, 3.3 million premature deaths occur every year from air pollution, with China having the most deaths at 1.4 million premature deaths.

My initial reaction to this article was to think about our lecture on the state controlling resource management. Economic growth has always been a priority for countries, environmental quality is always a second thought. Resource management is a part of what creates and maintains a state and unfortunately, these states have been neglecting their air quality resource and now millions are paying the price with their health. However, human and natural environment relations are very complex. It is difficult to predict the consequences of our actions, but the ramifications of severe air pollution are extreme in political, environmental, economic, and social spheres.

My opinion on this article is that it is very anthropocentric. One of the main concerns addressed in this article was about whether or not the Heathrow airport would be expanded based on the amount of air pollution. The only concerns mentioned were directly related to how this pollution would affect humans. Not once was there mention of how severe air pollution will affect wildlife in surrounding areas, or what the implications of acid rain will be. The article also focused on how much this public health emergency will cost. Maria Neira (Head of Public Health at WHO) discusses the health risks and states “these are chronic diseases that require hospital beds. The cost will be enormous.” Pollution has many more implications than just what it will cost the government to care for its ailing citizens. Acid rain damages trees and can cause water and soil to become acidic, killing the wildlife that rely on these resources. In cities near bodies of water, eutrophication is a big concern as it can cause algae blooms, which can kill fish and results in loss of plant and animal diversity. The article does a good job of focusing on the effects on humans, but unfortunately there is a lot more at stake than just hospital bed costs and delayed airport expansions.


I'll be honest and say that the main reason I read your post was your (very) captivating title. Its rather obvious that we really are only getting negative effects to us from all the pollution in the air from factories and vehicles, but its hard to tell just how bad it is. Luckily I don't live in a city, so I personally don't deal with it. Simply looking at side by side photos show just how different the sky actually looks with the levels of pollution these factories let off. I'd like to add that I just love that you point out the harm this will cause to wildlife, and that the article is more concerned on paying for the health rather then the issues themselves. Your final sentence really made me think about my overall opinion.
At the bottom of my comment will be a link to the most polluted cities in the world. At least we can say that the US and Canada don't have it way too bad compared to China and India, but its still very bad.

I think that this is an extremely important issue in the world today, and i believe the approach you took on the topic was very articulate and was interesting to read. This is an issue that continues to grow the more and more we develop and grow as a people, population wise that is. Although people are aware that our emissions create negative environmmental and health related issues, the general public is just not fully aware of the extent these impacts can have on our everyday lives. I think it is extremely important to further educate the public on the severity of the issues we face due to climate change, and the pollutants emitted from factories and other industrial acts. I also think its important that you mentioned the effects this pollution has on the wildlife side of the environment, people are unaware that the effects on the wildlife ultimately generate massive negative influences on our lives, whether it be from species relocation or extinction, destruction of habitats, or even contamination of food sources that communities rely on. I feel public knowledge and discourse is a massive first step in helping to mitigate these issues and reducing their harm

First off, your title was very attention-grabbing! When I first read your title, I immediately assumed that it was 3.3 million human deaths. This goes well with your point that most people have a very anthropocentric view on environmental issues. Although I can see why this view is problematic by putting humans and economic development before the health of the environment, I think we can also play to the strengths of this view. We can appeal to human health and the need for development in our efforts to protect the environment. We must offer an incentive because frankly, I don't think an ecocentric view (the view that the environment has an intrinsic value separate from humans) will get us very far with solving environmental problems. What are your thoughts on that? I also like how you gave examples of how the pollution would affect wildlife. But to circle back to humans, I would like to add that the acid rain resulting from pollution will impact the resources we use and therefore, might have a negative impact on our economy. So although it's unfortunate that most humans have an anthropocentric view on the environment, I also think that it's necessary.

You bring up a very good and interesting point. The strongest argument we have to get humans to try to get humans to fight against environmental degradation is to remind them of the impacts it will have on them (ex. without the oceans, we die). In cases like this one, we have seen impacts rather quickly so it is easy to use the results to prove that action must be taken to reduce air pollution. However, in other environmental issues, we have not seen a direct impact on humans yet. Over fishing is resulting in collapse of ecosystems in the ocean, but as humans, we have not felt a direct that effects our everyday lives. Or the controversial topic of climate change and global warming, there are still many skeptics who don't believe it's a real possibility because there hasn't been any severe effects on humans yet so they refuse to do anything to stop it.

There are a small amount of people who alter their lifestyles severely in order to minimalize their environmental impact solely because they care about the environment, so I agree with your idea that an anthropocentric view is necessary. The issue is convincing people that environmental degradation of all types will eventually have a severe impact on humans as well.

First of all thank you for bringing this issue in NewsActivist. The numbers both shock something inside of me and reaffirm my already existing knowledge of the issues we are facing from the mass amount of pollution we are emitting.

It is true that are federal government when pressured to ensure economic stability and growth will always forfeit the environment. This is a terrifying sentiment, but one thing that always brings me a little solace is that through the federal government may only ever take symbolic strides towards acting on climate change, our municipal governments and our cities are taking tangible leaps. We need to stop looking towards our federal government to do anything, because firstly, they do not have the jurisdiction or the incentive to do so. In land environmental jurisdiction lies with the provinces and action is being taken by cities. For Example, the city of Guelph can not do anything to directly change actions on a global scale, but the municipal government can change what happens within it's borders. The first global conference in Canada was one held in Toronto, called the "Changing Atmosphere Conference" in 1990, where Toronto was one of the first government in the world to commit to a carbon reduction target.

I agree that it is problematic that we view the issues as purely anthropogenic, but do you not think that maybe by appealing to are desires to take care of humans that there will be a trickle down affect? Might if not be the best to use this discourse so that more people act to mitigate pollution? However self-interested it will still have a major impact if people begin to change their lifestyles and habits.

Thanks for your response, it has given me a lot to think about!

After first reading your title, I thought to myself “that can’t be right”. 3.3 million people dead because of air pollution is an absolute tragedy. It is hard to believe that by trying to bring services to people such as transportation, power generation and wood burning can end up killing the very same people they are supposed to be serving.

I really enjoyed your point as to how this article is very anthropocentric. Unfortunately, in many instances, in order to bring about change through policies (in this case to control air pollution), there needs to be a direct effect on humans since we are able to voice our concerns. This is certainly an issue that will keep coming up as the world’s population continue to increase, particularly in China and India.

I agree with you that there are many more issues aside from the human death rate caused from pollution. Many side issues can come of this, some that are not yet detectable in the environment. Pollution is a growing conflict that branches out far creating other problems that we must resolve. The 'cleanup' of our actions causing pollution has taken a large toll on the economy of many countries for equipment, management, and projects to lower these emissions. I feel that the pollution in the air will lead to our demise as a species if it continues to accelerate at this level. It has grown into a chain reaction that has even lead to the rise of water levels, hence affecting coastal regions globally. The economy that we are trying to build strong through our industrial development also backfires through the result of our actions. We have this way of life that may be beneficial to us in the present, but can be the cause of our extinction down the road.

This a well structured blog post ! You summarized the article well and not only identified key points but also identified issues that were not included such as effects on wildlife e.g. eutrophication. I like how you related the article to the lecture material, an example of state controlling resources and undervaluing human health would be in the "To the Last Drop" documentary. I had no idea that this many deaths were being called by toxic compounds in the air. When air pollution is being talked about in the media, it is always about carbon emissions and the greenhouse effect, not how air pollution is making people sick.

Excellent post ! Very informative.

First of all, I appreciate your post because it is very educational. I learned a lot that I did not know previously by reading your post. I was definitely drawn to your post because of the title. That statistic was just shocking to me and I did want to read more about it. 3.3 million is a large number, that is a lot of people being killed by human created pollution. Since I was interested in this post, I did do a little research about China's air pollution, since you said China had the most deaths caused by pollution. I found an interesting article that talks about a tower that will be used as a smog cleaner, which I think is a very interesting way to go about saving the country from pollution. It is said to be able to remove about 60% of pollution particles from the air that enters, which seems like a substantial amount. It also talks about the side effects of pollution on the body, like blood clots. This article was a great piece to read after reading your piece. It talks about the issue and a possible solution. I will link it below if you would like to read. Thanks for the great post.


Hello, before I comment on the content, I would like to give credit to your strong title choice. It really stood out to me and quickly grabbed my attention by almost making this post a must read, well done. But overall I strongly agree with many of the points that you have stated. Especially with the federal and local government placing the health of our wildlife at the bottom of the totem pole. It’s very important that we place very close attention to our surrounding neighbours as we do share this vast land of resources with them. Our impacts strongly effect the health of these animals and trees. However I am also concerned with the number of human’s deaths caused by air pollution. I grew up in a city my whole life and plan to live in urban regions as I settle into adulthood. But with this staggering number of deaths being so high in densely populated areas with high pollution rates, I may have to second guess my decision.

But overall this post was very informative, and shed light on a very important issue that we all have to deal with. Even though most of the contribution does come from our industrialized society, our choice of lifestyle is a major contributor as well. I may choose to carpool now over driving alone, or walk, bike over driving to nearby locations to lessen my individual impact on global air pollution. Every big change does start small!

Your title for this article really drew me in. It is something that not everyone knows. You did much more with the rest of the essay though. I like how you deconstructed the articles and brought up the point that this is not something the effects just humans yet it is written about as such. This has been an issue with all of humanity. Although humans are not the only ones effected by pollution, some people unfortunately can only view disaster in the amount of human lives it effects. Though we do need more awareness and caring for other creatures and nature, if we are able to make positive changes in pollution and climate change by gearing our articles this way, it would be beneficial to do so.

Your title really geared me toward this article compared to any other! we often take for granite of the world we have around us, and we don't even realize sometimes how much we are truly destroying it. Your blog is very informative and really makes me think of ways that I can better the earth.

It is certainly interesting that you bring up that a lot of pollution control is focused on saving human lives. People are also very concerned about the environment and I think it depends a lot on who you ask. Some people are focused solely on the human aspect while others are focused solely on the nature aspect. The true motivation to control air pollution should regard life on the planet as a whole.

I'm not surprised by this. If the pollution is destroying the environment I can only imagine how harmful it is to the organisms in it, especially people. We spend so much time in places where air pollution is a serious issue, it makes me wonder if the pollution is increasing numbers of people with diseases like lung cancer.