World Health Day: Our Planet, Our Health

By Gillian Hogan Policy News   |   7th Apr 2022

On World Health Day we look at the impact of air pollution and climate change on our health

Today (Thursday the 07th of April)  is World Health Day; a global day of awareness organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) with the aim of drawing attention to a specific health area of concern to people all over the world.

With the theme for World Health Day 2022 being ‘Our planet, our health, ’ the WHO is taking the opportunity to focus global attention on the urgent actions needed to keep humans and the planet healthy and foster a movement to create societies focused on well-being.

Critical elements of our health are determined by the state of our planet and climate change including, clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food, and secure shelter. The health benefits that arise from addressing climate change can be both immense and immediate.

However, according to Mark Murphy, Advocacy Officer with the Irish Heart Foundation, most people don’t make this connection.

‘’Often the impact that the environment has on our health, and the way the climate crisis is changing it, is overlooked when in fact planetary and human health are interconnected in a myriad of complex ways,” he said.

Air pollution is the contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere.  It is responsible for more than 1,300 deaths every year in Ireland, with the vast majority of these due to heart disease and stroke.

" Planetary and human health are interconnected in a myriad of complex ways ”

Mark Murphy, Advocacy Officer , The Irish Heart Foundation

Burning smoky fuels such as coal, turf, and wet wood in the home results in the release of microscopic pollutants known as PM2.5 into the air. These are responsible for an estimated 92 per cent of air pollution deaths in Ireland.

“Home fuel burning is having a hugely detrimental impact on the nation’s health – with children, older people and those living with chronic diseases being the worst affected. It’s crucial that the scale of the damage being done is fully understood in the debate on banning smoky fuels. The fact is that when you sit in front of an open fire, you’re exposed to similar levels of toxic fumes found in traffic black spots at rush hour,” said Dr Tim Collins, CEO, The Irish Heart Foundation.

The Irish Heart Foundation have previously called for support to help the most vulnerable move to healthier more sustainable forms home heating, and later this year, the government will introduce a national smoky fuel ban. The ban is a huge step in reducing the impact of toxic air pollution and improving the health of people in Ireland by making the most polluting fuels unavailable in the Irish market.

Pollution resulting from vehicle fumes is also a major contributor. Increased active travelling such as walking and cycling instead of driving can increase active travel and reduce pollution from vehicles.

“Implementing environmentally beneficial measures such as better active travel infrastructure or the banning of the most health harming fuels to heat homes will not only address the climate crisis but it will also deliver real and immediate physical and mental health benefits for the entire population,’’ Mark added.

You can find more information about the WHO’s World Health Day here

 

 

 

 

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air pollution climate change climate crisis heart disease stroke WHO

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