Air Pollution is the ‘New Tobacco’, Needs Joint Action: WHO Head

Dr Tedros calls air pollution “a silent public health emergency”.

2 min read
Hindi Female

Breathing in polluted air is costing the world 7 million lives every year and causing harm to more than a billion people. Air pollution is termed as the “new tobacco” by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Calling air pollution “a silent public health emergency”, Dr Tedros, in an article written for The Guardian, says,

The world has turned the corner on tobacco. Now it must do the same for the ‘new tobacco’ - the toxic air that billions breathe every day. No one, rich or poor, can escape air pollution. 

He says that despite the million deaths, “a smog of complacency pervades the planet” and calls for an urgent global action to fight this issue.

The WHO is organising the first ‘Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health’ at it’s headquarters in Geneva on 30 October - 1 November 2018.

The conference, which will be attended by Ministers of Health and Environment of various countries and other representatives, will be aimed at implementing strategies which will help hasten the efforts to reduce air pollution significantly.


Air Pollution and Lung Cancer

Dr Tedros calls air pollution “a silent public health emergency”.
PM 2.5 particulate matter is extremely harmful.
(Photo: Reuters)

Data from a study carried out by the Lung Care Foundation, first published by IndiaSpend, indicates that unlike even a couple of decades ago, 50 percent of all lung cancer patients today were non smokers.

Experts say that the carcinogens found in cigarette smoke are similar to those found in the ambient air we breathe today that contains PM 2.5.

PM 2.5 particulate matter is extremely harmful. These fine particles can get deep into lungs and bloodstream and carry the risk of damaging your heart and lungs, according to the US Environment Protection Agency.

The WHO had classified outdoor pollution as a cancer causing agent in 2013.


Another study had found that higher levels of air pollution was linked to a heightened risk of developing oral cancer, which included cancers of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate.

While mouth cancers were associated with smoking, drinking, human papilloma virus, and the chewing of betel quid (paan), the study had added to this list increased levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and to lesser extent, ozone.

Previously, high air pollution had been linked to a host of health problems, from an increased risk of dementia to asthma and even changes in the structure of the heart, with recent research suggesting there is no “safe level” of air pollution.

(Breathe In, Breathe Out: Are you finding it tough to breathe polluted air? Join hands with FIT to find #PollutionKaSolution. Send in your suggestions to or WhatsApp @+919999008335)

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Topics:  Air Pollution   Tobacco   Lung Cancer 

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