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Ch. 17 Pollution and Health

John E. Conover, Jr., P.E.
Environmental Engineer
Long Island, New York

The Lancet Commission has presented a report on pollution and health, October 2017. These are my review comments: (click here for the complete report)

This report is very detailed and well prepared.  There is so much information, if you read the entire report, and look up anything you do not understand, it will be as if you passed a college course on environmental pollution, maybe even a master's degree.

A few excepts follow, but please read the entire report...

page 1: “Diseases caused by pollution were responsible for an estimated 9 million premature deaths in 2015—16% of all deaths worldwide”

page 2:“The claim that pollution control stifles economic growth and that poor countries must pass through a phase of pollution and disease on the road to prosperity has repeatedly been proven to be untrue.”

page 3: “Pollution can no longer be viewed as an isolated environmental issue, but is a transcendent problem that affects the health and wellbeing of entire societies.”

Page 7:  “This Commission defines pollution as unwanted, often dangerous, material that is introduced into the Earth’s environment as the result of human activity, that threatens human health, and that harms ecosystems; this definition is based on a definition of pollution developed by the European Union.”

I agree with most of the above definition, but I would take out the words”as the result of human activity”...It is possible for nature to make pollution, for example, if a volcano erupts and emits sulfurous gases and particulates, these are harmful to life and I would consider them to be pollutants.....also, what if a forest fire is started by a lightning strike? The air pollutants from the smoke are still pollutants.

Page 12“Among the world’s 10 most populous countries in 2015, the largest increases in numbers of pollution-related deaths were seen in India and Bangladesh, as reported by the Health Effects Institute.”

page 30“ In countries at every level of income, the health effects of pollution are most frequent and severe among the poor and the marginalised”

pqge 35:“It is crucial that pollution control programmes establish and adhere to a robust, systematic, and transparent system for prioritising pollution control that is based on assessment of health effects, environmental damages, and cost-effectiveness of control of various pollution sources.”

I agree with this statement 100%.  Most nations do not have enough money to fix everything at once, so they should try to fix the worst things first.

Many types of pollution are discussed in the report. These include

agricultural burning
biomass burning in cook stoves causeing indoor air pollution
 brominated flame retardants
carbon monoxide
chemical herbicides such as glyphosate and nano-particles;
diesel exhaust
Electronic waste dumpsites
ethylene oxide
forest fires
glyphosate (Roundup)
heavy metals
migration of polluting industries from high-income
                 countries to poor countries
nitrogen oxides
pesticides such as the neonicotinoids, organophosphate pesticides, chlorpyrifos
pharmaceutical wastes
 PM2·5 , fine particulate matter
 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
secondhand smoke,
sulphuric acid
sulphur in motorfuels
 sulphur oxides
 unsafe water
unsafe sanitation
untreated wastewater
wood stoves

Please review the entire report for more information.


November 2017, i just found an article about the health effects of air pollution in England in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s, when they were burning a lot of coal


”Geography mattered. Those located downwind from a coal intensive district suffered from their neighbour’s pollution. And communities in valleys surrounded by hills suffered more deaths as their own smoke emissions became trapped and concentrated.”

Chiang Mai Thailand is in a valley surrounded by mountains.......

”The effect of atmospheric pollution can be measured by looking at men who were born in the 1890s whose heights were recorded when they enlisted in the British army during World War I. Their average height was five feet six inches (168cm), but 10% were shorter than five feet three (160cm).
Those who grew up in the most polluted districts were almost an inch shorter than those who experienced the cleanest air, even after allowing for a range of household and local characteristics. This is twice as much as the difference in adult height between the children of white-collar and manual workers”

I think that is very special that the author found this. I thank him for this good work.


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