UN Environment 2019 Report
Women are the worst victims of air pollution
Women are the worst victims of air pollution, according to the recently published UN Environment Outlook 2019 report.
The report suggests that women are the worst sufferers due to indoor air pollution.
Lynn Tang, Director of Programs of Environmental Health, said that air pollution has serious impact on health of women, especially from the poorest sections of the society, who rely on biomass fuel for basic household work.
"Indoor air pollution is not only an environment issue, but also a women's human rights issue. It should be addressed properly with rights based approach," she said. Elaborating she also noted that, in Bangladesh, air pollution is causing over 180,000 deaths annually.
Leading sources of pollution are brick kilns, vehicles, construction and open burning.
In addition, over 80 per cent of the country relies on pollution fuels, including wood and kerosene, for cooking, heating, and lighting. This generates unhealthy amount of smoke for the family and contributes to overall air pollution levels as well in both urban and rural areas.
A comprehensive and multi-sectoral strategy for clean air is needed to adequately address all leading sources of pollution, she said.
For example, the government and NGOs can help by expanding access to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and facilitate industry transition to cleaner brick kilns.
At the end of the day, citizens also need to be educated on how these measures are beneficial for their own health, and this will pay off tremendously in terms of their personal well-being and health costs in the long run.
However, according to the World Health Organisation report, everyday around 93 per cent of the world's children under the age of 15 years (1.8 billion children) breathe air that is so polluted that it puts their health and development at serious risk.
Tragically, many of them die. World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that in 2016, 600,000 children died from acute lower respiratory infections caused by polluted air.
WHO estimates, around three billion people cook and heat their homes using solid fuels (i.e. wood, charcoal, coal, dung, crop wastes) on open fires or traditional stoves. Such inefficient cooking and heating practices produce high levels of household/ indoor air pollution, which includes a range of health damaging pollutants such as fine particles and carbon monoxide. Exposure is particularly high among women and young children. According to WHO, 4.3 million people die a year from the exposure to household air pollution in developing countries. Globally, reliance on solid fuels has emerged as one of the ten most important threats to public health. Indoor air pollution disproportionately affects women and children who spend the most time near the domestic hearth.
Dr. A.S.M Maksud Kamal, Department of Earth and Environmental Science of Dhaka University, said the major pollutants remain the excessive amount of vehicles on the streets, which need vigorous regulations to control the amount of emissions with policies put in place with regards to the lubricants and types of fuel used.
Additionally, brick kilns, open construction sites and the general laissez-faire attitude with which pollution is treated in the city and, in fact, the entire country exacerbates the problem.
The only solution would be for Dhaka and other parts of Bangladesh to incorporate green strategies and policies with strict implementation so as to curb the ever-increasing and adverse effects of air pollution, he said.