The environment matters. It matters as a set of interconnecting problems that threaten the quality of life and the sustainability of economic development worldwide. The environment is a global issue affecting people in developing and developed countries alike, and linking them in the need to take immediate and effective action. Today, 2 billion people live with dangerous air pollution, over 1 billion live without clean water, 2 billion-plus without sanitation, studies say. Food production has doubled world-wide in the past quarter century at the price of loss of crop diversity and natural habitats, and increased chemical contamination. Around one-seventh of the world’s tropical forests have been lost in the past three decades.

Close to one-fifth of the burden of disease in developing countries is due to environmental health risks. Much of this falls on our children as about two-fifths of infant mortality is linked with an unhealthy environment. About 1.7 million premature deaths are attributable to unsafe water, poor sanitation and deficient hygiene. Five to six million people, mostly children, die every year due to air pollution and waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea. Every year, an estimated 3 million people die prematurely from water-related diseases; 2 million die from exposure to stove smoke in homes, according to World Bank and WHO studies.

Air pollution and its impact
Air pollution is both outdoor and indoor. Outdoor pollution is mainly due to automobile exhaust (CO, NO2, SO4, respirable particles and O3) industrial emission, construction activity – tobacco smoke, dust from traffic from poorly maintained roads, pollens, fungi. Indoor pollution can be classified into two varieties: Aerobiologicals – dust mites and their fecal matter, cockroach droppings, pet saliva and danders (skin not hair), pollens, fungi, bacteria, viruses etc. Irritants: cooking fuel, smoke, cigarette smoke, mosquito-coil- burning smoke, formaldehyde, radon, volatile organic compounds and asbestos.

Every year, millions of people die or suffer serious health effects from air pollution: mainly respiratory diseases, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer of the lung.

An estimated 3 million people die each year because of air pollution; this figure represents about 5% of the total 55 million deaths that occur annually in the world. It is possible, because of uncertainty in the estimates, that the actual death toll is anywhere between 1.4 and 6 million annually.

  • Indoor air exposure to suspended particulate matter increases the risk of acute respiratory infections, one of the leading causes of infant and child mortality in developing countries. In Asia, such exposure accounts for between half and one million excess deaths every year. In sub-Saharan Africa, the estimate is 300,000-500,000 excess deaths.
  • Air pollution also damages plant and animal life and contaminates water sources, threatening economic and social welfare as well as health.
  • E-waste
    What is worse, the vulnerable working population in developing countries is suffering the consequences of the growing mountains of electronic waste. Millions of pieces of waste comprising electronic and electrical equipment, ranging from personal computers to mobile phones and containing toxic chemicals such as lead, cadmium, mercury, brominated flame retardants, and leaching plastics, are being dumped on low-wage countries like India.
    Global warming and human health
    Global warming has both direct and indirect effects on human health; the children and elderly are more vulnerable. The impact will be on health, agriculture, water resources, coastal area, and habitat. The latter half of the twentieth century has seen scientific progress and industrialization on an unprecedented scale, especially in areas like automobiles, aviation, construction, communication and medicine.

    Earth is warming up due to EL NINO. Ozone destroying chemicals are causing great damage on the earth. Global warming is altering the habits, migration of animals, which would eventually affect humans. The use of catalytic converters has significantly contributed to global warming. In what has been seen as a direct result of global warming, an iceberg has broken off the Ronne Ice Shelf in Antartica. People are responsible for them directly. There is drought on one side and floods on the other side. Chloroflurocarbons (CFCs) are one of the culprits in ozone depletion. Because of this there is a gradual increase in skin cancers.

    Types of pollutants
    Pollutants are classified as chemical, physical and biological substances that exert undesirable effects on human health and environment. Chemical pollutants are further classified as natural pollutants such as hydrocarbons, oxides of sulphur etc, and artificial (man-made) pollutants such as pesticides, detergents, solid and liquid wastes, dioxins and gases. Physical pollutants are heat, odour, noise, radiation either natural or man-made. Biological pollutants are microorganisms, pollen grains of plants and other living organisms.

    Chemical substances fulfilling the following criteria are of serious concern in terms of pollution: a) Large production, (b) Usage pattern, (c) Toxicity, d) Persistence, and e) Accumulation. Chemical pollutants undergo ‘transformation’ or ‘degradation’ through biotic and abiotic processes in the environment. Biotic transformation is mainly due to the activities of microorganisms, and abiotic process is mainly photolytic and hydrolytic, sometimes oxidative as well.

    Types of Controls
      Eco-friendly lifestylesThis is the answer to human greed and pride which definitely calls for an attitudinal change, behaviour and lifestyle modification. From a consumerist and disposable culture, we need to cultivate an eco-friendly attitude which calls for a very simple life, contented with the minimum needed so that we can contribute towards resource preservation and eco-restoration.
      Sustainable development A new concept of development was introduced by the UN-sponsored World Commission on Environment and Development as Sustainable Development. It is defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
      Legal regulations Major environmental issues need to be handled by the government through legal regulations and laws. The sad part of the situation is that we have many laws concerning eco-restoration but all are on the lookout for bypassing them by hook or crook.
      Planned industrial development Industrialization has not been done uniformly throughout the country. In order to have a well-balanced industrial development, several concessions are being given to those who are interested to put up their industries in backward areas including loan, reduced rate of intersect etc. Eg: Distillery and tannery must not be put together because of the industrial waste.
      Low pollution technology Through research, low pollution technologies etc can be invented for eco-restoration. Government must encourage such initiations for the common good.
      Environmental audit This management tool gives the inventory of a company’s environmental assets and liabilities. It focuses on the management’s responsibility to ensure sustainable development. When we are at the foothills of the `Himalayan’ task of eco-restoration, somewhere we need to start, whatever small it may be. `Health is Wealth’ we say, but our effort to keep up the positive health is negligible

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