Global Fridays: Is it time for “shock” ads on air quality in cities around the world?

Feb 25, 2011
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Region Forward

There’s an ad campaign that’s been running on the New York City Subway for awhile featuring somewhat grotesque images of liquid fat being poured into common sugary drinks like soda and “fruit” punch. The message is purposefully graphic to get the point across: obesity is a major problem and simply cutting out these empty calories is a good start to shedding excess weight.

Perhaps such a campaign on air quality is now necessary. A new study in The Lancet a medical journal shows that “air pollution triggers more heart attacks than using cocaine and poses as high a risk of sparking a heart attack as alcohol coffee and physical exertion.” We’re guessing that this isn’t a commonly known fact – it definitely wasn’t for any of us.

As GOOD points out this isn’t to say that cocaine users should feel somehow justified to continue their habit (cocaine use is more of a threat to heart health than air pollution) but given that there is a much larger percentage of the population that is exposed to polluted air than there are cocaine users the societal health impact of polluted air is much greater.

A “shock” campaign along the lines of the NYC sugar-fat ads may be in order to broadly communicate the grave health impacts of polluted air. Given that a vast majority of the U.S. cities with the worst air pollution are located in California that is likely the best place to start such a campaign. A good place to start outside the U.S.? Beijing. American officials there say that air pollution in the Chinese capital is so severe that it has literally become immeasurable. An unnamed Chinese official told the Agence France-Presse that “Obviously elderly people and children should not go outside.”

 
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