According to the World Health Organization, every year, around 7 million people die prematurely from disease caused by air pollution. That is 800 people every hour, or 13 every minute, dying because of the dirty air they breathe. Approximately, 4 million of these deaths occur in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2019, published earlier this month by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, further exposes how threats such as air pollution, diseases, earthquakes, drought and climate change combine and feed on each other to exacerbate their impact on human health and the environment.
“People and assets around the world are being exposed to a growing mixture of hazards and risks, in places and to an extent previously unrecorded. Heatwaves mixed with drought conditions can trigger intense wildfires that cause high levels of air pollution… a perfect storm is created by the complex interlinkages of different natural and anthropogenic events and processes,” says the report.
“As one of the most significant environmental hazards after climate change, air pollution contributes to the global burden of disease through atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gas emissions and their precursors, particulate matter, heavy metals, ozone and associated heatwaves (…),” the report adds.
Here are five ways in which disasters, natural or industrial, can either cause or exacerbate air pollution:
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