According to WHO, more than seven million people die each year from contamination of urban air and interior buildings.
In March 2014 WHO reported that more than seven million people die each year from contamination of urban air and interior buildings . (230,000 in Europe, where death from traffic accidents is around 20,000).
WHO reports that this is the greatest environmental risk to health. On the other hand, the general perception contradicts such a sentence for lack of habit, lack of information and because our feelings do not perceive it (we do not smell or see). WHO has brought together a large number of experts to develop the program called “Global Burdem of Disease” which concludes that indoor contamination is only the fourth predictable risk factor behind hypertension, tobacco and alcohol, while the particulate contamination of cities is the ninth, ahead of lack of exercise and cholesterol.
The effects revealed by the thousands of epidemiological and toxicological studies are so overwhelming that the same WHO (its cancer agency – ARC), in 2013, now classifies particulate urban air contamination as carcinogenic, proven in humans by its effect on lung cancer . This classification is limited to a small number of agents, including particles from diesel vehicles, carbonated with heavy metals and hydrocarbons on their surface. These particles of size almost in the range of nanoparticles have the ability to generate inflammation and damage beyond the lungs and even reach distal areas of the body, such as the heart itself or the brain. They not only affect the respiratory system, but also have effects on cardiovascular disease and myocardial infarction, as well as on children’s growth and even reproductive health. Such diseases have a relevance that deserves the full attention of society and its politicians.
City air must be cleared not only to comply with legislation, but also to protect our health . More than 220 cities across Europe have devoted their efforts to this, in line with the medium and long-term vision of their regional and state governments. To achieve this, a new form of urbanism and city organization must be sought, where the space dedicated to living together will gain areas for traffic, with the consequent reduction of noise, air contamination and the increase of green and green areas. of exercise . Architects, planners, engineers, and ecologists who specialize in mobility and social interaction are the key to designing cities that in the future are expected to have a much higher quality air than we currently breathe.
And so, as it now seems unacceptable to us to attend a class in which there is tobacco smoke over time, we will see our condescension to the toxic air of our streets and homes as a sign of past barbarity.
Jordi Sunyer is co-director of CREAL (Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology), ISGlobal Research Center