Pollution is a topic that often gets buried by talk of conservation, climate change, sustainability and energy issues. Perhaps because it is a complex subject with lots of sources and lots of effects. While all the above issues are important, let’s give pollution some of the talk time it deserves.
Think you know about pollution? Read on:
Top Ten Things You Might Not Know About Pollution
1) Pollution is one of the biggest global killers, affecting over 100 million people.
It is comparable in population and risk to human health to problems like malaria and HIV.
2) Pollution is one global problem that can be solved in our lifetime
Life-threatening pollution has already been eliminated in much of the developed world through initiatives like the U.S.’s Superfund. The technology and know-how to clean up toxic pollution already exists. All that’s needed is resources and commitment.
3) There is a finite number of polluted sites in the world
While the number of polluted hotspots may increase, it is a finite figure. Currently, Blacksmith Institute’s database of polluted sites lists over 2000 of the world’s worst polluted places. Blacksmith is working to prioritize these sites for cleanup targeting the communities with the most at-risk populations.
4) Pollution solutions are relatively low-cost
The cost to save a human life through the removal of hazardous pollution on Blacksmith projects can be as little as $42. $20,000 is enough to start a project that saves lives.
5) Children are most susceptible to Pollution
While children only make up 10% of the world’s population, over 40% of the global burden of disease falls on them. More than three million children under age five die annually from environmental factors.
6) Pollution is mainly caused by small-scale informal operations rather than large multi-national companies
However, demand for consumer goods from high-income countries still drive pollution activities in low-income countries.
7) Pollution does not stop even when the source of the pollution is removed
For example when polluting factories are closed, legacy pollution remains. If it is not removed, legacy pollution continues to sicken and kill.
8 ) Pollution can vastly lower life expectancy
In some of the world’s worst polluted places life expectancy can be as low as as 45 years because of lung, throat and thyroid cancers.
9) Death is not the only end result
Pollution causes chronic illness, neurological damage and a range of diseases that might not kill but might incapacitate a person or result in irreversible damage. For instance, the presence of lead in children lowers I.Q. by an estimated 4-7 points for each increase of 10 μg/dL.
10) Pollution affects everyone
While pollution affects the immediate population the most, its effects are felt far and wide because of the globalized economy. In addition, some pollutants like mercury travels and drops into rivers and seas worldwide, poisoning the seafood supply.
Read my earlier post: What is Pollution?