More than one-third of those deaths, it said, occurred in fast-developing nations of Asia, where rates of cardiovascular and pulmonary disease have been soaring - and Malaysia was of no exception!
Around the world, one out of every eight deaths was tied to dirty air, the agency determined - twice as many as previously estimated. Its report identified air pollution as the world’s single biggest environmental health risk.
The report found that those who are most vulnerable live in a wide arc of Asia stretching from Japan and China in the northeast to India in the south.
Exposure to smoke from cooking fires means that poor women are especially at risk, the agency said. Indoor air pollutants loomed as the largest threat, involved in 4.3 million deaths in 2012, while toxic air outdoors figured in 3.7 million deaths.
Outdoor air pollution-caused deaths – breakdown by disease:
- 40% – ischaemic heart disease;
- 40% – stroke;
- 11% – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD);
- 6% - lung cancer; and
- 3% – acute lower respiratory infections in children.
Indoor air pollution-caused deaths – breakdown by disease:
- 34% - stroke;
- 26% - ischaemic heart disease;
- 22% - COPD;
- 12% - acute lower respiratory infections in children; and
- 6% - lung cancer.
Many deaths were attributed to both. Breakneck urbanisation in the developing nations of Asia, especially China, is a major force contributing to the air pollution problem.
The reports by the World Bank and WHO each said the burning of noxious fuels - coal, wood and animal waste - was among the greatest threats to human health. In India, the health agency estimated, 700 million people rely on biomass fuels like agricultural waste for indoor cooking.
Kirk R. Smith of the University of California, Berkeley, measured pollutants from smoky indoor ovens, and said they were comparable to burning 400 cigarettes an hour.
“Unfortunately, we have not made a lot of progress in the past decades, and household air pollution is still the largest single health risk factor for Indian women and girls,” the health agency quoted Dr Smith as saying.
In China, the bigger culprit is coal, which supplies two-thirds of the country’s energy.
FOOTNOTE: How many Malaysians died or suffered breathing difficulty from the haze and pollution? The Health Ministry should come up with a report.