The World Health Organization’s latest advice could be reinterpreted as a cruel oxymoron: Stop breathing, or you’ll stop breathing. A tall order, but one in eight deaths in 2012 was caused by air pollution. And more likely than not, that one air-pollution-wrecked body lived its shortened life in a poor or developing country — probably in Asia.
WHO’s latest air-pollution-linked mortality estimates double previous annual figures, due largely to medical discoveries about pollution’s poisonous effects. Scientists have been discovering that a shockingly long list of afflictions can be exacerbated or triggered by air pollution — everything from heart attacks and lung cancer to diabetes and viral infections. The inhalation of tiny particles is now regarded as the world’s largest single environmental health risk — responsible for an estimated 7 million deaths in 2012.
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