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Wednesday November 29, 2023

‘Half a million people die in Pakistan each year due to environment-related ailments’

June 07, 2023

Environmental pollution, especially air pollution or poisonous air, is resulting in around half a million deaths in Pakistan alone, as some of Pakistani cities are among top 10 polluted cities in the world, experts said on Tuesday, adding that around 90 million people were dying due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) linked to environmental pollution every year around the globe.

“Around half a million people must be dying due to communicable and non-communicable diseases in Pakistan annually as some of Pakistani cities are among those having the worst air quality in the world. Air pollution is linked to stroke, heart attacks and lungs diseases, including several types of cancers as well as different neurological disorders,” Prof Muhammad Wasey, an expert neurologist associated with the Aga Khan University (AKU), said.

Talking to a group of environmental journalists at the AKU in Karachi, Prof Wasey said airborne chemical contamination is a critical issue because air pollution is a major environmental risk factor for neurological health. In 2014, only about one in ten people breathed clean air, as defined by the World Health Organization Air quality guidelines.

“This means that 9 in 10 persons are exposed to bad air, meaning that the air quality levels exceed WHO limits. Air pollution is a global hazard: citizens of Africa, Asia and the Middle East breathe much higher and increasing levels of air pollutants that those in living other parts of the world,” he said. According to Prof Wasey, some of the major non-communicable diseases caused by poor air quality are hypertension, different types of cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases or dyslipidemia, mental health issues including depression, stroke, injuries, chronic respiratory diseases, chronic kidney diseases and fatty liver disease.

“More than 70 per cent deaths are due to NCDs as 20 per cent million have high blood pressure, 5 per cent are diabetic, 12 per cent have high cholesterol, 18 per cent have heart disease, 16 per cent are obese, 12 per cent smoke, 15 per cent are chewing tobacco, 24 per cent are suffering from mental health disorders while 30 per cent women and children have anemia,” he added.

Prof Wasey claimed that around 800 people were dying every day in Pakistan due to heart diseases, while cancers were killing 400 people on a daily basis. “Similarly, 400 people are dying due to stroke daily, chronic respiratory disease are causing 200 deaths daily, accidents are causing 50 deaths daily while over 300,000 are on dialysis due to kidney failure.”

He said awareness by the media, advocacy by the health and environmental experts, education and research at the institutes of basic and higher learning could prevent many deaths due to environmental causes in Pakistan like the rest of the world. Prof Riffat Malik from the Quaid-e-Azam University said air pollution is not only causing stroke but also resulting in other neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease as well as developmental disorders among children. She spoke about the extent and hazards of plastic pollution in the world as well as in Pakistan, and called for creating awareness regarding it.