Southeast Asia most polluted region globally, 2.6 million deaths related to outdoor air pollution, Dr Haider A Khwaja

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The air pollution impacts on mortality and health are a significant public
health issue worldwide. The population-based studies have documented health
risks resulting from short term exposure to air pollutants.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that air pollution has become
the world’s single biggest environmental health risk, linked to around
seven million humans, nearly one in eight deaths in 2012.

Around 80 percent of the 3.7 million deaths from outdoor air pollution came
due to stroke and heart disease, 11 percent from lung diseases, six percent
from cancers. The Southeast Asia is now the most polluted region globally,
with 2.6 million deaths related to the outdoor air pollution. These new
estimates are based not on a significant increase in pollution, but on
improved knowledge of the links between air pollutants and cardiopulmonary
diseases.

These views were expressed by Dr Haider A Khwaja from Wadsworth Center,
Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health,
University at Albany, NY, USA while delivering one of the plenary lectures
at fifth international conference on environmental horizon jointly
organized by the Department of Chemistry and Office of Research Innovation
and Commercialization (ORIC), University of Karachi and International
Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), KU, on Sunday.

The three-day long event was scheduled at Professor Dr Salimuzzaman
Siddiqui Auditorium, ICCBS, KU, from Friday till Sunday. The Professor
Emeritus and former federal minister for science and technology,
Atta-ur-Rahman, shared with audience that knowledge is not the single most
important factor for socio-economic development and science and technology
are great equalizers. Countries that have realized this and invested
heavily in developing their human resources to the highest possible levels
have leaped forward, leaving others far behind.

Meanwhile, the Director ICCBS, KU, Professor Dr M Iqbal Choudhary,
mentioned that biodiversity is an outward manifestation of chemical
diversity and plants contain a fascinating array of highly evolved,
specific and effective gene products. Their diverse structural and
stereo-chemical characteristics make them valuable templates for exploring
novel molecular diversity.

Another speaker, Parisa A Ariya of Department of Chemistry and Department
of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, McGill University, Montreal, QC,
Canada, shared that the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) and
the WHO have identified airborne particles as a research priority of the
utmost importance.

She mentioned that the IPCC points to the importance of the aerosol-cloud
processes due to their impacts on the absorption and scattering of
irradiation, altering the earth’s climate whereas the WHO predominantly
considers aerosols as to be health hazards.

Sheryl H Ehrman from Davidson College of Engineering, San Jose State
University, USA, informed the audience that over the past two decades,
anthropogenic pollutants have been successfully reduced in the mid-Atlantic
region of the United States, resulting in improved air quality.

However, she said that parts of the mid-Atlantic still are considered
non-attainment regions and ozone remains the main criteria pollutant of
concern. The ozone is a secondary air pollutant, formed by reactions
between volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. Ozone precursors
are mainly emitted by power plants, motor vehicles, industrial operations
and biogenic sources.

“In the past several years, a new influx of emissions associated with
hydraulic fracturing based production of natural gas in the Marcellus shale
play may be counteracting the benefits that have been gained. On the
flip-side, low cost natural gas could replace coal as fuel for power
plants, potentially reducing emissions.”

The Director, Wisconsin State laboratory of Hygience, Peterson-Rader-Hawnn
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of
Wisconsin-Madison, Dr James J Schauer, mentioned that the association of
atmospheric particulate matter (PM) with the adverse health effects has
been well established and has led to the promulgation of PM standards and
the implementation of control measures to reduce OM concentrations.

He elaborated that given the complex nature of the source of PM, there are
different strategies that can be used in air pollution control programs
targeted at reducing the impact of PM. From a public health perspective,
the sources of air pollution that have the biggest impact on the burden of
disease should be targets for control but ability to link specific sources
to health impacts is not well established.

According to him, for this reason, there is a need to develop collaborative
efforts between atmospheric science studies and epidemiological and
toxicological studies to establish has human exposure to specific sources
of air pollution impact then pathogenesis and burden of disease.

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