Pollution de l

According to a new report from the Energy Police Institute, 97.3% of the world’s population is exposed to excessively polluted air. We take stock of the impact of air pollution and its consequences on our health.

Atmospheric pollution – or air pollution – is a real scourge. According to a report published this Tuesday, June 14 by the Energy Police Institute of the University of Chicago, 97.3% of the world’s population lives in an area where air pollution exceeds the levels recommended by the Organization. global health. A constantly changing figure: in 2014, the WHO indicated that 92% of the world’s population breathed excessively polluted ambient air: atmospheric pollution was already particularly worrying in Asia (China, India…), in Africa (Congo , Cameroon, Egypt…) and in South America (Peru, Honduras…).

Air pollution: what exactly are we talking about? The quality of the air around us can be altered by polluting substances, which can be of natural or anthropogenic origin (read: which result from human activity). Among the ambient air pollutants, we can mention in particular:

  • Nitrogen oxides. Nitrogen monoxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are mainly emitted by humans – they are “waste products” produced daily by heating, by electricity production, by car engines , by certain factories, by the use of certain agricultural fertilizers…
  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2). Sometimes emitted by Nature (volcanoes), this atmospheric pollutant is mainly the result of the combustion of fossil fuels (fuel oil, coal, diesel…). Some factories (refineries, etc.) can also release SO2 into the air.
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Benzene, acetone and perchlorethylene are the main volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These are mainly emitted by human activity, in particular during the use of solvents for domestic use (glues, paints, etc.). Road transport and industry also produce it.

And also… In the ambient air, one can also find heavy metals (lead, cadmium, mercury…), ozone (O3), ammonia (NH3, not to be confused with ammonia!), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)…

To know. The polluting particles which are suspended in the ambient air are classified according to their size: thus, PM10 are particles whose diameter is less than 10 micrometers (or 10 microns, or 10 µ). PM2.5 have a diameter of less than 2.5 µ: these are the famous “fine particles”.

Air pollution: containment has had a beneficial impact. According to a survey carried out by Santé Publique France and published in mid-April 2021, the “strict” confinement of spring 2020 had a positive impact on the quality of ambient air, with a significant reduction in the level of nitrogen dioxide (NO2 ) and PM10, especially in large cities. This one-time drop in air pollution would have prevented around 3,500 deaths…

Air pollution, a real health hazard

The numbers are frightening. According to Public Health France, between 2016 and 2019, air pollution caused 40,000 deaths each year. In France, air pollutants (and, in particular, fine particles) have thus been responsible for 7% of total annual mortality, and have reduced the life expectancy of people living there by 8 months on average. been exhibited.

In Europe, it’s even scarier: according to a report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) published in October 2018, nearly 500,000 Europeans die each year from overexposure to air pollutants. . And in the world, air pollution reduce overall life expectancy by two years on averageup to 10 years in some countries such as Asia.

The causal link between exposure to air pollution and mortality is now well establishedexplain the experts of Public Health France. Air pollutants have a pro-inflammatory action at the cellular level: they are responsible for oxidative stress that promotes inflammation in the body, which translates into a concrete impact at the cell level, especially on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

To know. As the Ministry of Ecological Transition points out, “it is chronic exposure to air pollution that leads to the greatest health effects and therefore impacts“.

Air pollution: it mainly attacks the respiratory system

Because air pollutants enter the body mainly through the nose and mouth, it is especially the organs that make up the respiratory tree that pay the highest price: “there is a worsening of the disease (symptoms and progression) in people who suffer from obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)” note the specialists of Public Health France. In 2010, according to Inserm, 3.5 million French people were affected by this chronic inflammatory disease of the bronchi.

Air pollution is also atriggering and aggravating factor ofasthma” according to Health Insurance. Scientific studies are unanimous: “chronic exposure [aux polluants de l’air] (…)linked to the proximity of a busy road, promotes a higher incidence of asthma in children and probably also in adults“.

And also…Chronic exposure to air pollution is responsible for poor lung development in children: they fail to reach their maximum respiratory capacity“add the experts from Public Health France.

Air pollution: it (also) increases the risk of cancer…

To know. In October 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified outdoor air pollution as “definite carcinogen for humans“.

Air pollution and lung cancer. According to a study conducted jointly by Inserm, the University of Rennes 1 and the School of Advanced Studies in Public Health (EHESP), published in March 2021, chronic exposure to carbon-soot (an air pollutant emitted by diesel engines, power plants, the combustion of agricultural waste, etc. would be associated with an increased risk of lung cancer of around 30%.

In addition, according to several recent scientific studies, chronic exposure to air pollution also increases the risk of breast cancer (fine particles tend to increase the density of breast tissue, which is a risk factor for breast cancer, according to a study by the University of Florida published in 2017), mouth cancer (according to a large study carried out in Taiwan in 2018) or even endometrial cancer (here, it is specifically exposure to cadmium that is singled out by an American study from 2017).

And also…Air pollution also increases cardiovascular risk with, in particular, an increased risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) in the event of repeated and prolonged exposure.note the specialists of Public Health France. Without forgetting the neurological impact and on perinatality (with an increase in premature births and growth delays).

How to protect against air pollution?

Reducing air pollution: the right reflexes. To reduce ambient air pollution, several good reflexes can be adopted:

  • Ventilate your home regularly – even in winter! Indeed: air pollution is not only outside. Indoor air pollution (by VOCs, in particular) is also harmful to health: it is therefore necessary to open the windows wide at least 10 minutes a day.
  • Prioritize “green” modes of transport. For short distances, leave the car in the garage and favor walking or cycling – what’s more, it’s excellent for your health. For long distances, we opt for public transport, which is definitely less polluting: the bus, the metro, the train, carpooling…
  • Reasonably heat your home. Because domestic heating is a source of atmospheric pollution, we avoid excessive heating when it is not necessary (we put on a sweater instead) and we consider insulation work at home if necessary.

In the event of a pollution peak (PM10 concentration greater than 80 µg / m3 or micrograms per cubic meter of air), the health authorities have issued recommendations for vulnerable people (elderly people, pregnant women, young children, asthmatics, sick chronicles…):

  • Avoid intense physical and sports activities, not only outdoors, but also indoors,
  • Avoid going out in the early morning and late afternoon and around major highways,
  • In case of unusual respiratory or cardiac discomfort, consult a doctor or pharmacist without delay.

To know. Since the 1970s, the Approved Air Quality Monitoring Associations (AASQA) have been monitoring air quality in France. Maps (updated daily) provide regional information.


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