Experts Warn That Pollution Is Killing Millions across the Globe4 min read
According to the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, global deaths linked to air pollution totalled nine million in 2019. This makes dirty air responsible for one of every six deaths around the world.
The review describes toxic air, along with polluted soil and water, as an existential risk to environmental and human health. It endangers modern societies’ sustainability. Compared to deaths linked to TB, malaria, road traffic accidents, drug and alcohol abuse, and HIV and AIDS combined; the air pollution death toll is higher. Its economic impact is around $9M (or £7.45M) per minute or a total of $4.6tn (or around £3.7tn).
The Lancet’s first global review came out in 2017 and there haven’t been any improvements ever since. Although countries have come up with various programs and campaigns over the years, prevention has never really been tackled, particularly when it comes to the international development agenda. Since 2015, there haven’t been any significant changes in funding.
The researchers said that since pollution, nature and wildlife destruction are related, the solutions to each one will be useful for the others. Air pollution, however, has to be highlighted and given the right attention.
Global Alliance on Health and Pollution’s Richard Fuller, who is one of the authors of the research, said that awareness about pollution is an essential factor in driving and creating change. Awareness allows people and communities to do something that their governments and politicians would hear enough to instigate action.
Over 90% of deaths linked to air pollution happen in Nigeria, India, and other low and middle-income countries. The US and the European Union already have programs and campaigns in place, but toxic air issues still abound.
Diesel emissions scandal
Part of the reason why the UK and EU are constantly on their toes thinking of solutions for air pollution is the Diesel gate diesel emissions scandal that initially involved only Volkswagen but later on implicated other carmakers.
The Diesel gate scandal started when US authorities discovered defeat devices inside VW diesel vehicles. The devices are intended to detect when a vehicle is in testing so it can artificially reduce emissions levels to within the limits set by the World Health Organization.
When the vehicle is taken out for real-world road driving though, it emits high levels of NOx or nitrogen oxide, often in excess of the limits listed by the WHO and EU. Thus, any vehicle equipped with a defeat device is considered a heavy pollutant.
About a year or so after authorities found the cheat devices on VW vehicles, US car owners threatened to start a class-action lawsuit against Mercedes-Benz for the alleged use of the defeat devices. Eventually, other carmakers got involved and it became a global issue. Today, Volkswagen and Mercedes continue to face litigation and pay fines and compensation to affected car owners.
How does the diesel emissions scandal contribute to air pollution?
The gas that diesel vehicles with defeat devices emit is called NOx or nitrogen oxide. NOx is a group of gases with nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and nitric oxide (NO) as two of the primary components. It is known to form smog and acid rain when it reacts with other compounds.
Nitrogen oxide can also form ground-level ozone, which can significantly affect vegetation. Plants and crops that are exposed to NOx can easily suffer from frost, their growth stunted.
Recent studies have shown that nitrogen oxide may also increase the possibility of mental health issues. It can trigger anxiety and depression, among others.
NOx has numerous health impacts that range from mild to serious. Low-level nitrogen oxide exposure can lead to headaches, nausea and vomiting, breathing problems, and asthma or aggravated asthma for those who already have it.
A person exposed to nitrogen oxide can also develop emphysema and bronchitis.
Serious health impacts that can result from high-level exposure to nitrogen oxide include increased susceptibility to certain cancers and cardiovascular diseases, chronic reduction of lung function, asphyxiation, other respiratory illnesses, and early death.
The first case of premature death linked to air pollution happened in 2013 when nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah died after a severe asthma attack. Ella had been in and out of the hospital for months for her seizures and respiratory-related health issues. In December 2020, after an inquest on her death, the coroner ruled that air pollution is the main cause of her death. She and her mother lived near the South Circular Road in south-east London, which is highly polluted; thus, she was regularly exposed to toxic air.
Why file an emissions claim?
There are several reasons for filing a diesel emissions claim:
- The carmakers lied when they said the vehicles they were selling were clean and safe for the environment.
- The carmakers deceived car owners who paid a premium price for vehicles that were equipped with defeat devices and were, therefore, not functioning as expected.
- The carmakers contribute to air pollution through the nitrogen oxide emissions coming from affected diesel vehicles.
So, how do I bring my diesel claim against my carmaker? By working with a panel of emissions solicitors who can show you how the process is done.
To find out if you are eligible for an emissions claim, visit Emissions.co.uk