What cures are for pollution

Harmful environmental influences are detrimental to health

Berlin. Climate change, water pollution, extinction of species: many people are concerned about environmental problems. This is the result of a representative population survey by the Scientific Institute of the AOK (WIdO), which was carried out at the end of September 2020. More than a third (38.7 percent) of the total of 3,000 respondents are of the opinion that environmental pollution and environmental pollutants have a strong or very strong impact on their own health. Significantly more (76.4 percent) fear that in the future environmental pollution and environmental pollutants will affect the health of future generations. Three quarters are open to contributing to environmental protection themselves. Women generally show a higher level of commitment. “Citizens are aware of the impact of environmental pollution on their health. Now politics is called for ”, conclude the study authors Klaus Zok from WIdO and Dr. Kai Kolpatzik from the AOK Federal Association. “It is a task for society as a whole to create more environmental justice. All people need healthy living conditions, ”demand the study's authors.

Environmental protection is of great importance to people in Germany across all social classes. Environmental influences and environmental protection are not perceived as marginal problems. The large majority answered the question “How important is environmental protection for you personally?” With “important” or “very important (87.5 percent). The topic is even more important to women than to men (89.3 percent; 85.7 percent). This also applies to respondents with higher formal schooling compared to respondents with basic schooling (89.0 percent; 85.3 percent).

For most (78.9 percent) there are several environmental issues that cause them concern: water pollution (79.0 percent), climate change (78.8 percent) and plastic and microplastics in the environment (77.0 percent). Concern about a loss of biodiversity in the flora and fauna also ranks high among the population (73.8 percent).

Concern for future generations

Many worry about the future of the environment (72.3 percent). When asked "How much do you think pollution and environmental pollutants will have a negative impact on the health of our children and grandchildren in the next 25 years?", More than three quarters of those questioned answered "strongly" or "very strongly" (76.4 percent ). Younger adults (<30 years of age) in particular are concerned here (83.4 percent).

At the behavioral level, three quarters of those surveyed indicated that they were open-minded when it came to contributing to environmental protection themselves (74.3 percent). According to the WIdO survey, for example, 87.2 percent of those questioned separate rubbish, 70.8 percent have reduced their energy consumption and 59.6 percent have opted for an environmentally friendly way of getting around. As a reason for their environmentally conscious behavior, environmental protection and the benefit for your own health are right at the top. The health aspect plays a major role in motivation.

Health effects

Whether in your own home, at work or in your free time: The environment surrounds us human beings for a lifetime. Environmental pollution and pollution have a direct impact on one's own health. "Since this process is mostly very slow, negative effects often only show up after a long time," says study author Klaus Zok. According to the WIdO-Monitor, two out of five people feel strongly or very strongly stressed by harmful environmental influences (38.7 percent). The subjectively experienced effects on one's own health were shown on the basis of three medically particularly relevant stresses (noise, air pollution and chemicals). Noise is most often experienced as stressful. Road traffic noise comes first: a fifth of the respondents feel very strongly or severely impaired as a result, among them the age group of 30 to 39 year olds most frequently with 27.6 percent. City dwellers feel this environmental pollution more than people who live on the outskirts or in the country. Air pollution is most commonly experienced from car exhaust, less from fine dust or industrial emissions. When asked about chemicals in soil, water or food, over 40 percent fear that pesticides in agriculture have negative effects on health.

The health complaints associated with these environmental pollution were primarily psychosomatic complaints. These include, for example, nervousness, irritability and feelings of fear, but also sleep disorders, headaches, respiratory diseases and gastrointestinal complaints. Respondents who assess their health critically often feel that they are burdened by negative environmental influences.

“Your own behavior is only one cornerstone in dealing with environmental influences and stresses. The decisive factor is the change in the framework conditions, which politicians must take care of, ”says Dr. Kai Kolpatzik and adds: "Because more than 40,000 premature deaths from fine dust annually in Germany cannot be prevented by your own behavior." The introduction of new limit values, for example, has reduced the concentration of harmful substances in children's bodies over the years (source: Federal Environment Agency ).