Air pollution has been a problem for a while now, especially in cities and urban settings. While we understand that it causes harm, we often tend to not realise the extent and intensity of it. A new study by a team at the University of Surrey sheds some light on the pollution hotspots across the globe to see how driving in these regions, and in-car pollution affects the people.
As a part of this study, a team of air pollution experts investigated air pollution and its relation to drivers in pollution hotspots, and related factors such as the GDP. The cities that were a part of this research include – Chennai, India; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Guangzhou, China; Sulaymaniyah, Iraq; Cairo, Egypt; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Blantyre, Malawi; Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania; São Paulo, Brazil, and Medellín, Colombia.
It was observed that drivers spending even a small part of their commute through high-pollution hotspots inhaled significant amounts of PM2.5 particles. For example, even 26% and 28% of a trip spent through high-pollution areas contributed to 54% and 56% of the total air pollution inhalation. This was observed in cases of Guangzhou and Addis Ababa.
On the other hand, the study compared the death rates in these cities caused by PM2.5 pollution to the GDP to assess economic losses. It concluded that cities with lower GDP experienced higher losses caused by in-car PM2.5 exposure.
Highest levels of PM2.5 pollution exposures, as in cities like Dhaka, Dar-es-Salaam, and Blantyre were also linked to higher death rates per 100,000 commuting car population annually. Cities with lower PM2.5 pollution levels such as Sulaymaniyah, São Paulo, and Medellín registered lower death rates.
Professor Prashant Kumar, Associate Dean (International) and Founding Director of GCARE at the University of Surrey, and one of the authors of this study said, “Our global collaborative project has confirmed that air pollution disproportionately affects developing countries. Many countries are caught in a vicious cycle where their low GDP leads to higher pollution exposure rate for drivers, which leads to poorer health outcomes, which further damages the economy of those cities. This is discouraging news – but it should galvanise the international community to find and deploy measures that mitigate the health risks faced by the world’s most vulnerable drivers.”
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