TRACEY WATSON–The World Health Organization (WHO) calls air pollution “the world’s largest single environmental risk.” In 2012, one-in-eight deaths around the globe were a result of exposure to air pollution. There is a direct link between exposure to both indoor and outdoor air pollution and increased incidences of stroke, heart disease and cancer. Now, a review led by Professor Onno van Schayck of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, claims that a global surge in lung disease deaths, in spite of steadily decreasing numbers of smokers, can be explained by the increasing numbers of wood-burning stoves being used worldwide.
There are two main causes of a life-threatening disease called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): smoking and exposure to air pollution.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, COPD is a progressive disease that makes it increasingly difficult to breathe. It can cause a wet, slimy cough, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. COPD encompasses both emphysema and chronic bronchitis. For those living with this illness, every breath is agony, and COPD places them at increased risk for complications which can be life threatening.
While awareness of the dangers of smoking has led to more and more people quitting this dirty habit, an increase in the number of wood-burning stoves used worldwide has offset this trend, causing an 11.6 percent increase in COPD diagnoses in the last 15 years. (Related: If you haven’t quit yet, get tips and hacks to help you at StopSmoking.news)
Professor van Schayck points out that around 1.8 billion of our planet’s residents use biomass cooking methods – where heat for cooking is derived from the burning of wood or other organic matter.
While for many burning wood to cook their food is a basic element of survival, a surge in popularity of wood-fired cooking in trendy restaurants and pizzerias is also contributing to the problem, as is the use of wood-burning stoves for household heating. (Related: Air pollution from vehicles damages your lungs and cardiovascular system after just two hours on a busy street.)
Professor van Schayck claims that many of the 3.2 million people who died from COPD in 2015 became ill as a direct result of pollution caused by such stoves.
He reached this conclusion after reviewing a study published in the journal The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
The lead author of that study, Professor Theo Vos, noted:
“COPD and asthma contribute substantially to the burden of non-communicable disease. Although much of the burden is either preventable or treatable with affordable interventions these diseases have received less attention than other prominent non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer or diabetes. Up-to-date information on COPD and asthma is key to policy making to improve access to and quality of existing interventions.”
The sad fact is that even though COPD kills close to 30,000 people in the U.K. alone each year, most people have never even heard of the disease.
And air pollution exposure makes you vulnerable to many other diseases, as well, because it damages your immune system’s ability to destroy bacteria and viruses.
Air pollution could make you more vulnerable to infection, if new research is to be believed. Edinburgh Napier University were behind the findings which investigated the link between car-choked streets and illness. The results, showing significant human health implications, are believed to be the first to confirm an association between the two.
Dr. Peter Barlow, lead author of the Edinburgh Napier study warns, “We were extremely concerned when we found that air pollution particles could inhibit the activity of these molecules, which are absolutely essential in the fight against infection. In light of these findings, we urge that strong action plans are put in place to rapidly reduce particulate air pollution in our towns and cities.”
As the problem of indoor and outdoor air pollution continues to escalate, and governments seem no closer to improving the situation, now is a good time to consider investing in a high-quality air purification system for your home and office.