Most research on climate change’s impact on public health pertains to long term effects. However, new data shows that serious illnesses can arise rather immediately. According to a recent study conducted by King’s College, researchers have linked high concentrations of NO₂, ozone, and particulate matter to hospitalizations for varying times of exposure. However, a startling trend shows that more individuals need to seek emergency services on high pollution days. From asthma attacks to strokes, lower air quality is responsible for admitting hundreds of extra cases into hospitals each year.
The dangerous impacts of air pollution
Covering environments all across the United Kingdom, the team from King’s College focused on larger cities such as Birmingham, London, Manchester, and Oxford. As a result, they discovered rather unsettling relations between respiratory health and low air quality.
For example, researches discovered that roadside air pollution stunts lung growth and reduces lung function in children. Additionally, adults are more likely to be hospitalized for asthma on days with high NO₂ pollution. The study further revealed that there are 338 more health-related emergencies a year on higher versus lower pollution days.
Taking note of the revealed information, the Chief Executive of NHS released a statement in response to the eye-opening study.
“These new figures show air pollution is now causing thousands of strokes, cardiac arrests, and asthma attacks, so it’s clear that the climate emergency is in fact also a health emergency” states Simon Stevens. He further continues his thought by acknowledging that “these avoidable deaths are happening now, not in 2025 or 2050, together we need to act now”.
Previous cases of deaths by air pollution
While this new set of information shocks many, the truth is that air pollution has had a correlation with immediate illnesses for a while. Ella Kissi-Debrah, a nine-year-old girl, passed away last year due to an asthma attack.
The number one cause for the asthma attack, as researchers have agreed, was due to the sharp increase in air pollution. Unfortunately, Ella is among many of those who have lung conditions who have struggled with breathlessness due to air pollution.
Each year, the number of deaths related to air pollution increases.
A Hopeful and Healthy Future
As a refreshing point of view, the report includes the positive benefits the United Kingdom could experience if air pollution was regulated.
By cutting even a fifth of air pollution in a large city like Birmingham…
- Children’s lung capacities have the ability to increase from 7.7%
- 659 children would not be subjected to low lung function.
- The amount of lung cancer cases would decrease by 6.4%, this is equivalent to around 50 fewer lung cancer patients.
- 11 fewer babies would be born underweight each year.
And by ensuring overall lower air pollution in a large city like Birmingham…
- An average of 42 hospital admissions for stroke could be prevented each year.
- 15 children and 11 adults would not need to be hospitalized for asthma for each high pollution day.
The recent research makes an obvious correlation between immediate illnesses and high pollution. However, many are wondering the future steps officials will take as the number of respiratory health cases skyrocket.
Unfortunately, the adverse effects of climate change continue to loom over the public’s health. Hopefully, governments will act to prevent such cases. Whether it be through regulating car emissions or advocating for carbon clean-up, it is clear that change needs to occur soon.