Air pollution kills an estimated ten million people each year. But it does much more than that, too. A long thread on what it means that more than 90 percent of the world's population is breathing dangerously polluted air. (1/x)…
"Here is just a partial list of the things, short of death rates, we know are affected by air pollution. GDP, with a 10 per cent increase in pollution reducing output by almost a full percentage point, according to an OECD report last year."
"Cognitive performance, with a study showing that cutting Chinese pollution to the standards required in the US would improve the average student’s ranking in verbal tests by 26 per cent and in maths by 13 per cent."
"In Los Angeles, after $700 air purifiers were installed in schools, student performance improved almost as much as it would if class sizes were reduced by a third."
"Heart disease is more common in polluted air, as are many types of cancer, and acute and chronic respiratory diseases like asthma, and strokes. The incidence of Alzheimer’s can triple."
"(One study found early markers of Alzheimer’s in 40 per cent of autopsies conducted on those in high-pollution areas and in none of those outside them.)
"Rates of other sorts of dementia increase too, as does Parkinson’s. Air pollution has also been linked to mental illness of all kinds, with a recent paper showing that even small increases in local pollution raise the need for treatment by a third, and to worse memory..."
"...attention and vocabulary, as well as ADHD and autism spectrum disorders."
"Pollution has been shown to damage the development of neurons in the brain, and proximity to a coal plant can deform a baby’s DNA in the womb. It even accelerates the degeneration of the eyesight."
"A high pollution level in the year a baby is born has been shown to result in reduced earnings and labour force participation at the age of thirty."
"The relationship of pollution to premature births and low birth weight is so strong that the introduction of t E-ZPass reduced both problems in areas close to toll plazas (by 10.8 per cent and 11.8 per cent respectively), by cutting down on the exhaust expelled by idling cars."
"Extremely premature births, another study found, were 80 per cent more likely when mothers lived in areas of heavy traffic."
"Women breathing exhaust fumes during pregnancy gave birth to children with higher rates of paediatric leukaemia, kidney cancer, eye tumours and malignancies in the ovaries and testes."
"Infant death rates increased in line with pollution levels, as did heart malformations."
"And those breathing dirtier air in childhood exhibited significantly higher rates of self-harm in adulthood, with an increase of just five micrograms of small particulates a day associated, in 1.4 million people in Denmark, with a 42 per cent rise in violence towards oneself."
"Depression in teenagers quadruples; suicide becomes more common too."
"Stock market returns are lower on days with higher air pollution, a study found this year. Surgical outcomes are worse. Crime goes up with increased particulate concentrations, especially violent crime."
"When there’s more smog in the air, chess players make more mistakes, and bigger ones. Politicians speak more simplistically, and baseball umpires make more bad calls."
"In 2019, a comprehensive global review by the Forum of International Respiratory Societies found that air pollution damages every organ, indeed virtually every cell, in the body. Nanoparticles of pollution have been found inside the brainstems of even the very young."
"But you don’t have to wait until birth to see the effects of breathing particulate matter. The impact begins in the womb. In 2019, a small-scale study found particles of black carbon in every single placenta examined..."
"...including those from mothers who lived in areas where the air was thought to be clean, with thousands of particles found in every cubic millimetre."
"For those who worry about microplastics in the flesh of fish, this is a yet more invasive category of intrusion. Of course, there are also microplastics in the air, and being breathed. They’ve been found in placentas too." (x/x)

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More from @dwallacewells

30 Nov
“For just five percent of what the U.S. spent on covid recoveries, we could’ve bought out every single coal plant in the world and shut it down.” The great ⁦
@Guay_JG (1/x).…
"It's very cost effective to do this is that if you were to plot the cost per ton, the abatement cost of buying out and shutting down old coal plants compared to just about every other abatement opportunity we have, it is pennies on the dollar. It is stupidly cheap."
"I've had people working on green banks here in the US and internationally say that if they were honest about plotting how they should use new green bank dollars, it'd be really hard not to justify spending all of it on buying out coal plants and shutting it down..."
Read 4 tweets
28 Nov
Last week, I published a long essay about the grotesque, unconscionable, and yet entirely normalized costs of air pollution—10 million deaths a year. Reducing fossil fuel alone won’t solve the problem. Wildfire is a rapidly growing source. A thread (1/x).…
"In 2020, wildfire accounted for more than half of all air pollution in the western U.S.—meaning more particulate matter infiltrated the lungs of Americans living in those states from out-of-control burning of forest than from all other human and industrial activity combined."
"By midcentury, those fires are expected to at least double, possibly grow sixfold, and conceivably more..."
Read 40 tweets
27 Nov
“In 2009, a patient in Japan developed a fungal infection on their ear. The highly transmissible Candida auris fungus had been previously unknown to science but within a few years, cases started emerging in Venezuela, Iran, Russia, and South Africa.” (1/x)…
“Scientists assumed that the spread was due to human travel, but when they sequenced the cases, they were surprised to find that these strains weren’t closely related at all.”
“Instead, scientists were seeing multiple, independent infections of an unknown fungal disease, emerging around the world, all at the same time.”
Read 4 tweets
26 Nov
On Wednesday, @LRB published a long essay of mine on the brutal effects of air pollution, which kills ten million a year. But beyond the moral horror, air pollution offers strategic and conceptual lessons for climate, as well. A long thread (1/x).…
@LRB First, that brutality, which cannot be overlooked. Ten million deaths a year is one hundred million a decade, four hundred million in my lifetime. And the costs to human health and human flourishing extend well beyond the lives lost.
These are numbers so large they demand that we utterly reorder our moral picture of the world we live in today, recalculating our accounting of the brutality of the present and the intuitive discounting of status-quo suffering in the developing world that likely undergirds it.
Read 38 tweets
25 Nov
"As carbon dioxide emissions have surged by 50 percent in 60 years, to nearly 40 billion tonnes worldwide, the Amazon has absorbed a large amount of that pollution—nearly two billion tonnes a year, until recently."…
"But humans have also spent the past half-century tearing down and burning whole swathes of the Amazon to make way for cattle ranches and farmland."
"As a result, the Amazon as a whole is now a net carbon source, mainly because of humans setting it on fire. And even subtracting emissions caused by fires, the southeastern Amazon is now a net carbon emitter."
Read 4 tweets
25 Nov
“We read the hullabaloo about an ‘energy crisis’ as one in a series of ongoing struggles to define the political and intellectual terrain on which we make sense of climate change and our unrelenting march into a future defined by it.”…
“Paradoxically, it is because climate change is a permanent state that the politics of it have tended to focus outsized attention on events, whether disasters or summits, which offer discrete moments of action and attention in the face of an otherwise amorphous problem.”
“But as Gramsci knew well, it is the interim stretches that are crucial in determining how moments of acute struggle shake out.”
Read 5 tweets

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