ABU DHABI, Increasing number of fatal diseases such as heart attacks and strokes caused by air pollution should be an eye-opener for common people to act against climate change, according to a senior official of the World Health Organisation, WHO.

Such public health issues caused by climate change have to be used effectively to raise awareness about the need to check rising carbon emissions, Dr. Maria Neira, Director of the Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health at the WHO, told the Emirates News Agency, WAM, on Sunday.

People may consider many other impacts of climate change, such as the melting of glaciers and rising sea levels, as distant phenomena that do not impact their lives, she said in an interview on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting.

However, the fact that air pollution causes the premature death of around 7 million people every year will be an eyeopener to common people about the impact of climate change on their lives, she said.

Dr. Neira was referring to a WHO finding that revealed that exposure to fine particles in polluted air led to heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia, causing premature deaths across the world.

"When people come to know that air pollution can cause stroke and heart attack, they will act against climate change," she said.

Public awareness is key to building pressure on political leaders to formulate policies and action plans against climate change, Dr Neira said.

An individual can do many things in their life against climate change, she explained. Using nonpolluting transportation modes, such as walking and biking, is one option. Likewise, doing daily exercise and keeping a healthy diet are also important.

"However, one's living environment also plays a major role. If your city does not have a place for exercise or walk and the market does not offer low-calorie food, what can you do?"

Therefore, she explained, the governments have to create sustainable living environments through their policies and action plans.

Dr. Neira said the WHO is receiving support from the UAE leadership in a number of projects. "We are grateful to the Emirates for such support and hosting this climate meeting."

Source: Emirates News Agency