Statistics On Life Expectancy And Pollution

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These are statistics from The Economist - World in Figures 1997 Edition.

 These figures beg the question:  Given that the number of smokers in North America has decreased by 50% in the last three decades, why has the number of lung cancer cases increased so dramatically, even among nonsmokers" The antismokers' standard answer is: because of secondhand smoking! In reality, unless North American people in the last thirty years have developed a peculiar kind of genetics setting them aside from the rest of the human race, world-wide statistics like the ones reported here clearly disagree.

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Let us consider the table below. 

TABLE I - The "#"sign represents the country's position in the world scale COUNTRY LIFE EXPECTANCY
79 countries sampled SMOKING
25 countries sampled POLLUTION
[Nitrogen Oxide]
19 countries sampled POLLUTION
[Sulphur Dioxide]
19 countries sampled HEALTH SPENDING
(as % of GDP)
40 countries sampled JAPAN Cell 1
#1 - 79.9 Cell 5
#2 - 7.3 Cell 9
#19 - 10.5 Cell 13
#19 - 7.0 Cell 17
low enough for no rating CANADA Cell 2
#9 - 78.1 Cell 6
low enough for no ratingCell 10
#2 - 69.1 Cell 14
#1 - 118.7 Cell 18
#2 - 9.9 GREECE Cell 3
#9 - 78.1 Cell 7
#1 - 7.7 Cell 11
low enough for no ratingCell 15
low enough for no ratingCell 19
low enough for no rating U.S.A. Cell 4
#21 - 76.8 Cell 8
# 11 - 5.1 Cell 12
#1 - 73.4 Cell 16
#2 - 81.2 Cell 20
#1 - 13.3

Let us correlate this simple data. We have numbered the cells in red for easier reference.

From the data base, we have chosen four significant countries: Japan, Canada, Greece, and United States. The evaluation parameters are: 

  • Industrialization
  • Life expectancy
  • Rate of smoking
  • Nitrogen Oxide pollution
  • Sulphur Dioxide pollution
  • Solid hazardous waste generated
  • Industrial waste generated
  • Expenditures for public healh

We can immediately observe that Japan, with the longest life expectancy in the world [cell 1], is also the second heaviest smoker [cell 5]. However, Japan is the last in the list for significant pollution [cells 9 and 13], and its health care spending is below the last of the 40 countries sampled [cell 17].

Canada and Greece have both the 9th longest life expectancy [Table I: cells 2 and 3], but Greece is the heaviest smoker in the world [Table I: cell 7]. Remarkably however, pollution in Greece is below the level of the 19 countries sampled, and so is the health care spending [Table I: cells 11, 15, 19]. To maintain the same life expectancy, Canada maintains the second place in the world for health care spending [Table I: cell 18]. Please note that smoking in Canada is rated below the level of the 25 countries sampled. Could the high health care spending be related to the fact that Canada is the second heaviest polluter for Nitrogen Oxide [Table I: cell 10], and the first one for Sulphur Dioxide [Table I: cell 14], by any chance" Of course not, respiratory disease comes from secondhand smoking! Actually, Canada is a very heavy atmospheric polluter in general, that is, Carbon Monoxide, Hydrocarbons, etc., not listed in these statistics.

 Let's go further. The United States has a short life expectancy rating (21st place) [Table I: cell 4], while being the number one heath care spenders in the world [Table I: cell 20]. They also have a small smoking population [Table I: cell 8], but they are number two in Sulphur Dioxide pollution [Table I: cell 16], and number one in Nitrogen Oxide pollution [Table I: cell 12]. The totals in fuction of population are reported in Table II.

 It is to be noticed, however, that industrial and vehicular exhausts are responsible for more than just respiratory disease. Formaldeheyde and Benzene, abundant in the exhaust of gasoline-powered cars, cause many types of cancer and other disease. So are Benzaldehyde, Propionaldehyde, Crotonaldehyde, Acrolein, etc. Over 50% of the more than 120 chemicals resulting from the combustion of fossil fuels are damaging to health, one way or another, including the now famous Benzo[a]Pyrene, apparently positively linked to lung cancer. 

Metric Tonnes/year JAPAN 123,610,000 10.5 1,297,905 7.0 865,270 CANADA 26,000,000 69.1 1,796,600 118.7 3,086,200 GREECE 10,000,000 very low
N/A very low
N/A very low
N/A very low
N/A U.S.A. 247,350,000 73.4 18,155,490 81.2 20,084,820

To this end, it is interesting that news and government reported the link between smoking and lung cancer -- implying that by eliminating smoking Benzo[a]Pyrene exposure is eliminated -- rather than B[a]P and lung cancer, since exposure to dangerous concentrations of this chemical is inevitable in any city, anywhere, anytime.

 Furthermore, it should be known that the so-called "clean-burning" modern cars are so called because they are fairly clean in the five measured gases (Carbon Monoxide, Hydrocarbons, Nitrogen Oxyde, Carbon Dioxide, and Oxygen -- the last two are not pollutants) -- as per legislation, but all the other un-measured deadly pollutants are still there, though nobody talks about them.

 From this analysis we can conclude that if there is reason for a great health scare, the reason is to be found in the disastrous air pollution levels of North America, to which smokers contribute in insignificant levels. The incidence of ETS (secondhand smoking) in atmospheric pollution (including indoor) can be equated to zero. Because today's technology can accurately measure nanograms, that does not mean that nanograms of a substance are necessarily dangerous, unless we are talking about plutonium or similar substances.

TABLE III - Industrial and Hazardous Waste
The "#"sign represents the country's position in the world scale COUNTRY POPULATION SOLID HAZARDOUS WASTE GENERATED
43 coutries sampled TOTAL SOL. HAZ. WASTE GENERATED
20 countries sampled TOTAL IND. WASTE GENERATED
Metric Tonnes/year JAPAN 123,610,000 low enough for no ratinglow enough for no rating #4 - 52.6 6,501,886 CANADA 26,000,000 #5 - 267 6,492,000 #2 - 138 3,588,000 GREECE 10,000,000 #19 - 43 430,000 #16 - 10 100,000 U.S.A. 247,350,000 #2 - 1,059 261,943,650 #1 - 485.4 120,063,690

It is not surprising that North American governments try to cover up the health disaster with an almost exclusive emphasis on primary and secondhand smoking.  To explain the raise in respiratory disease, they have to choose between the whole truth -- which would imply that shutting down industries and transportation is the only way to assure good health for the public -- and a cynical distortion of a very partial truth by claiming that the tobacco industry and secondhand smoking from smokers are the real culprits to worry about. The choice has been made, as our daily newspapers make clear.

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