Effects of Air Pollution on Health
In this paper, we will critically review the article based on a research conducted by Chit- Ming Wong, Nuntavarn Vichit-Vadakan, Haidong Kan, and Zhengmin Qian. The title of the paper is Public Health and Air Pollution in Asia (PAPA): A Multicity Study of Short-Term Effects of Air Pollution on Mortality; published in the September 2008 issue of the journal, “Environmental Health Perspectives”. The article has included a total of twenty-seven significant literature studies which were based on the same subject. Quite a many articles were taken from some renowned databases like those of the ‘World Health Organization (WHO)’ and Health Effects Institute (HEI).
The number of studies conducted in the Asian countries for the analysis of the effects of air pollution is quite less as compared to those of the Western countries. The project named as PAPA or Public Health and Air Pollution in Asia aims at studying the short-term effects of air pollution on some specific countries and cities like Thailand, Bangkok, Wuhan, Hong Kong and Shanghai. The method adopted for the purpose of the study included the study of the mortality rates in the mentioned regions. The sources from where the data were collected were genuine and authentic. The data were taken from the Ministry of Public Health, Bangkok; the Shanghai Municipal Center of Disease Control and Prevention, Shanghai; the Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong; and the Wuhan Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Wuhan. Data regarding the estimation of different air pollutants were also considered. To determine the quality of air, the concentration of the following gases in the air were considered- nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulphur dioxide and PM10. The concentration of all these gases, except ozone, was measured over a time period of 24 hours. For ozone, the time of estimation was only 8 hours. The measurement of the concentration of pollutants were done in Bangkok by the Pollution Control Department, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (having 10 air monitoring stations); in Hong Kong by the Environmental Protection Department (having 8 air monitoring stations); in Shanghai by the Shanghai Environmental Monitoring Center (having 6 air monitoring stations); and in Wuhan by the Wuhan Environmental Monitoring Center (again having 6 air monitoring stations). The obtained statistics were then plotted against adequate graphs, the necessary steps required for a better understanding and analysis of the graphs were taken, which gave the data more authenticity and made it more accurate. The method used for the purpose of this study is completely fair and justified. The analysis of the data was also thorough and well organized. As the collected data belonged to some very eminent and reliable sources, the obtained result is thus also reliable and dependable.
(Air Pollution in China, 2016)
The results were presented in tabular forms. Table 1 consisted of the mortality data of the previously mentioned regions, whereas table 2 consisted of the concentration of the mentioned particles in the air of the same regions. Talking about the mortality rates, Shanghai and Bangkok showed the highest number of daily deaths as compared to the other places in the discussion. On the other hand, deaths due to cardiovascular diseases were seen to be the highest in Wuhan. Regarding the concentration of the mentioned particles in the air, it was seen that the levels of PM10 and Ozone were highest in Wuhan. The concentrations of Sulphur dioxide and Nitrogen dioxide were at its peak in the air of Shanghai. The cause of the high concentration of pollutants in the air of Shanghai was probably due to the presence of power plants in the region. In an attempt to correlate the findings of the two tables (table 1 and table 2) significant findings were obtained and recorded in another table (table 3).
The results in the given study did have much importance in terms of understanding the effects of air pollution on the mortality rates of some specific regions, but it did not explain the correlation between the two very well. It would have been more appreciable if the mortality rates were linked to the concentration of the named components in the air.
The presentation of the facts was better in another article which aimed at demonstrating the rates of death in the rural areas of China as a result of indoor air pollution occurring due to the burning of biomass fuels. The article mentioned the data in proper figures and compared it with the data of the urban areas of China (Zhang and Smith, 2007). This article by Zhang and Smith was more comprehensive and the data had a more dependable basis.
The discussion of the article revolves around the findings of the study. The central theme of the discussion is the analytical study of the obtained results. It consists of the literature review of several other articles which revolved around the similar topic as that of the study. Contrary to the name or the title of the article, the article does not discuss the short-term health effects of air pollution. It rather only discusses the association of mortality with air pollution and it cannot be called as a short term effect.
Another article that has been published in the same journal (Environmental Health Perspectives), discusses the rise in the mortality rate with the subsequent increase in the level of impurities (particularly ozone, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and PM10). This article states that an increase of 10 micrograms per cubic metre over a period of 2 days, in any of the mentioned particles, will lead to a 0.25% rise in the mortality rate in Shanghai (Kan et al., 2008).
In the discussion part of the study, there is an explained elaboration regarding the limitations of the study. Mentioning the limitations within the study is an appreciable step. According to the research workers, the most important limitation in the study was the differences in the monitoring of different locations across different parts of the cities. In the cities which are densely populated, like Shanghai and Hong Kong, the pollution monitors were placed very close to the major roads. But in Bangkok and Wuhan, the pollution monitors were placed far away from the major pollution sources. Therefore, the obtained results would not have been accurate completely (Wong et al., 2008). The article also points out that there would have been significant differences in the environment of the cities under consideration.
The paper ends with concluding the observed facts. It states that the health effects of air pollution in the Asian countries is almost equal or more than the North American and Western European regions. However, the difference in the concentration of pollutants in the air is way more in the latter countries than in the Asian countries. the fact that air pollution has more hazardous effects on the Asian countries has been supported by another article. The article describes the rate of mortality in different countries as a result of air pollution. Almost 65% of deaths resulting from air pollution occur in Asian countries alone (Cohen et al., 2005). Another article supports the fact, China, one of the Asian countries has shown the very high concentration of pollutants in the air. It also supports the central theme of the article. The mortality rate in China has shown a direct link with the short-term exposure to the pollutants in the air (Chen et al., 2012). A research conducted in Taipei aimed at analysing the association of hospitalisation with air pollution and sandstorms in the region. The study continued over a time period of 8 years. The percentage of hospital admissions was found to be higher on the days of the sandstorms; the rate of asthma increased by 4.48% (Bell, Levy and Lin, 2008).
(Deaths from Urban Air Pollution, 2016)
A study conducted on the similar lines tried to analyse the relation between the life expectancy and the concentration of particulate matter in the air in different regions of the United States. The study revealed that when there is a 10 microgram per cubic meter decrease in particulate matter in the air, the life expectancy then also shows a simultaneous rise of 0.61 +/- 0.20 years. In other words, the reduction in air pollution leads to 15% increase in the overall life expectancy among the people of the United States (Pope, Ezzati and Dockery, 2009).
Research conducted with seventy thousand nine hundred and forty-seven middle age males and females examined the effect of outdoor pollution on the mortality rates in China. The study revealed very strong interconnections between the environmental pollution and the mortality rates due to cardiovascular or respiratory illnesses, mainly lung cancer. 10 microgram per cubic meter rise in the concentration of total suspended particles, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide led to 0.9%, 3.2%, and 2.3% increase in the mortality rate resulting from cardiovascular diseases respectively (Cao et al., 2011). This article thus mentions about the presence and effects of individual pollutants in the air.
(Pollution in China, 2016)
Air pollution is a major issue of concern nowadays for every country and its government. It has brought about immense distress in the field of medicine with the ever increasing number of deaths that the phenomenon of air pollution has brought with itself. The increase in globalization and modernization has led to a drastic increase in the pollution levels too. The increase in the numbers of factories and vehicles have resulted in the increase in outdoor pollution in developed countries, on the other hand, use of biomass fuels in the developing countries is a major cause of indoor pollution. Both the forms of pollution are extremely harmful and may prove to be fatal. But indoor pollution is somewhat more dangerous than the outdoor one. The studies discussed in the paper have reported that the rate of mortality as a result of air pollution is higher in developing countries. in other words, it can be said that the developing countries are the worst affected by pollution than their developed counterparts. However, the concentration of pollutants is found to be higher in the air of the developed countries. The population living in the Asian continent is one of the worst affected groups. The health effects of pollution are more severe and life threatening in the countries of the Asian content. Compared to that, the air is more polluted in the United States, but the people are relatively healthier. They bear less harmful consequences. The increase in the particulate matter in air leads to a subsequent rise in the rate of mortality, and at the same time decreases the life expectancy. Similarly, a decrease in the particulate matter over time reduces the rate of mortality and increases the life expectancy. The most commonly found ailments that result from being exposed to the air pollutants for a long period of time are the cardiovascular diseases and the respiratory diseases. The disease tuberculosis still persists in many developing countries. The reason behind such persistence is the combination of both outdoor and indoor pollution. The issue of air pollution needs to be tackled soon, it is important to devise strategies in order to bring down the level of pollutants in the air. It will help in reducing the mortality rates and will result in an increase in the life expectancy of the people. It will bring about better health for the elder age group and reduce the incidences of other grave diseases resulting from pollution too. Reduction in pollution will help in building a healthier and safer nation for the future generations, and thus a healthier world for each and every individual.
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Bell, M., Levy, J. and Lin, Z. (2008). The effect of sandstorms and air pollution on cause-specific hospital admissions in Taipei, Taiwan. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 65(2), pp.104-111.
Cao, J., Yang, C., Li, J., Chen, R., Chen, B., Gu, D. and Kan, H. (2011). Association between long-term exposure to outdoor air pollution and mortality in China: A cohort study. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 186(2-3), pp.1594-1600.
Chen, R., Kan, H., Chen, B., Huang, W., Bai, Z., Song, G. and Pan, G. (2012). Association of Particulate Air Pollution With Daily Mortality: The China Air Pollution and Health Effects Study.American Journal of Epidemiology, 175(11), pp.1173-1181.
Cohen, A., Ross Anderson, H., Ostro, B., Pandey, K., Krzyzanowski, M., Künzli, N., Gutschmidt, K., Pope, A., Romieu, I., Samet, J. and Smith, K. (2005). The Global Burden of Disease Due to Outdoor Air Pollution. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, 68(13-14), pp.1301-1307.
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Kan, H., London, S., Chen, G., Zhang, Y., Song, G., Zhao, N., Jiang, L. and Chen, B. (2008). Season, Sex, Age, and Education as Modifiers of the Effects of Outdoor Air Pollution on Daily Mortality in Shanghai, China: The Public Health and Air Pollution in Asia (PAPA) Study. Environ Health Perspect, 116(9), pp.1183-1188.
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Pope, C., Ezzati, M. and Dockery, D. (2009). Fine-Particulate Air Pollution and Life Expectancy in the United States. New England Journal of Medicine, 360(4), pp.376-386.
Wong, C., Vichit-Vadakan, N., Kan, H. and Qian, Z. (2008). Public Health and Air Pollution in Asia (PAPA): A Multicity Study of Short-Term Effects of Air Pollution on Mortality. Environ Health Perspect, 116(9), pp.1195-1202.
Zhang, J. and Smith, K. (2007). Household Air Pollution from Coal and Biomass Fuels in China: Measurements, Health Impacts, and Interventions. Environ Health Perspect, 115(6), pp.848-855.