Environmental pollution — from filthy air to contaminated water — is killing more people every year than all war and violence in the world. More than smoking, hunger or natural disasters. More than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.
One out of every six premature deaths in the world in 2015 — about 9 million — could be attributed to disease from toxic exposure, according to a major study released on Thursday in The Lancet medical journal.
The worst affected countries are in Asia and Africa, with India topping the list.
Australians are not immune, according to University of Queensland researcher Professor Peter Sly:
“While we are not Beijing or Delhi, we can still measure and demonstrate health impacts of pollution on the Australian population, and water contamination from firefighting foam is just one recent example.”
One out of every four premature deaths in India was attributed to pollution in 2015, in China it was one in five, with Bangladesh, Pakistan, North Korea, South Sudan and Haiti following close behind.
That was a study published in the Lancet, reported by the ABC. The Guardian has a different tale in Air pollution causes ‘huge’ reduction in intelligence, study reveals.
That was a study conducted in China, but is relevant everywhere because it found that more than 95% of the global population breathe unsafe air.
If that wasn’t enough:
A recent study found toxic air was linked to “extremely high mortality” in people with mental disorders and earlier work linked it to increased mental illness in children, while another analysis found those living near busy roads had an increased risk of dementia.
The new work, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, analysed language and arithmetic tests conducted as part of the China Family Panel Studies on 20,000 people across the nation between 2010 and 2014. The scientists compared the test results with records of nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide pollution.
They found the longer people were exposed to dirty air, the bigger the damage to intelligence, with language ability more harmed than mathematical ability and men more harmed than women.
That’s not all, and I’m reminded of my post last June CO2 is scrambling our brains, but will it kill us all?
2. Life expectancy improvement faltering?
Life expectancy at birth has improved considerably over the last 50 years in Australia, as this graph shows:
However, an article in the New Scientist (pay-walled) expresses concern that the improvement is faltering, and may even go into reverse in the UK and some other countries, including Australia:
According to this ranking, Denmark is poor for a developed country ranked at 47, but Japan and Italy are among the best. Reasons given include the following:
Australia is about seventh in the world, better than many of our peers, which increases our chances of living long enough to get dementia.
In 2017, its economic growth [in the UK] was the fifth lowest in Europe at just 1.7 per cent. We know that economic collapses elsewhere have shortened lives. The most well known occurred following the fall of the Soviet Union, which saw life expectancy for men plunge from 63.8 to 57.7 between 1990 and 1994.
I’m old enough to hear my celebrity peers popping off at the rate of several a week. I’m curious as to which ‘me’ would be preserved if there is life after death. Being preserved in a state of decrepitude may not be fun.
If you’d like to work out how much time you’ve got, this site may help.
3. The strange case of Denny, who belonged to two human species
According to a series of articles in the the New Scientist, reports are surfacing just about every week of new discoveries of ancient hominins. The bottom line is that there were more advanced hominins around the world during the last million years than we knew about. Almost certainly the story of how homo sapiens emerged is going to be significantly altered, but a clear story is yet to emerge.
The latest find was the 90,000 year-old remains of a 13 year-old girl they are calling Denny, for Denisovan, except that she was a first generation hybrid of a Denisovan father and a Neanderthal mother. We can tell that from one small piece of bone, shown here from four angles:
The chances of finding a first generation hybrid are vanishingly small, but that doesn’t mean that there were a lot of them. Denisovans and Neanderthals were quite distinct populations.
There is a chance, however, that neither species went extinct as such, but were absorbed into larger homo sapiens populations.
4. We don’t know the story about Emma Husar
On Sunday 2 September Labor frontbencher Clare O’Neil went on Insiders saying that unlike the Liberals, Labor has anti-bullying processes. In the process she defended the party’s handling of the Emma Husar complaints. This was written up in The Guardian – see Australian parliament ‘toxic’ for women, says Labor’s Clare O’Neil.
O’Neil argued that the Husar case was entirely different from the widespread bullying that occurred during the Liberal leadership imbroglio, which saw Julia Banks finally decide to leave parliament.
The Husar case and O’Neil’s comment, are now routinely being spun as evidence that there is a bullying problem on both sides, which is somehow meant to ‘normalise’ what happened in the Liberal Party.
I want to emphasise that we don’t know what happened in Husar’s office. We do know that after the slut-shaming published in Buzzfeed, allegations taken without checking and excused as journalism, she felt she had to go.
We do have Husar’s own account in an interview with Leigh Sales. We are told that there were 44 complaints, almost half from one former staff member, Jeremy Anderson, who had to be counselled over poor performance. The remaining complaints were anonymous.
So there was one complainant, a male. Probably there were more, but we don’t know.
I mention this because we are going to hear a lot about bullying in the next week as parliament resumes sitting, along with Liberal spinmeisters routinely trying to divert attention elsewhere.
5. Manufacturing strong
In the popular mind manufacturing is dead in this country. Everyone knows that. Yet on 4 September we have an article in the AFR, Australian manufacturing on the cusp of two years uninterrupted growth:
Manufacturing is on the cusp of two years of uninterrupted growth, but energy and commodity prices and the drought are inflating costs, the latest figures from Australian Industry Group show.
Ai Group’s performance of manufacturing index climbed 4.7 points to 56.7 in August, indicating an increase in growth across the sector. Anything above 50 points indicates an expansion in activity, with the distance from 50 indicating the strength of any increase or decline.
The index has now been in positive territory for 23 consecutive months – the longest run of recovery or expansion since 2005.
Ai Group’s average wages manufacturing sub-index rose 4.1 points to a record high 64.7, indicating stronger wages growth in the manufacturing sector compared with depressed growth in other areas of the economy.
The manufacturing export sub-index also increased by 8.5 points to 58.4, representing a shift into growth from July.
Further growth expected
An increase of 8.5 points to 59.6 in the new orders sub-index suggests further growth in manufacturing on the horizon.
Five of the index’s eight sub-sectors recorded growth in August, including food and beverages, wood and paper products, chemicals, non-metallic minerals, and machinery and equipment.
Food and beverages, the largest manufacturing sub-sector, increased by 0.8 points to 61.7, continuing an expansionary trend which started in 2013.
Just thought you would like to know.