World Health Day 2022: Keep an eye on your eyes
Marking the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organisation on 7th April 1948, World Health Day aims to unite the globe in raising awareness of specific health issues. In 2022 the theme is quite simply: ‘Our planet, our health.’
Our eyes may have been focused on the pandemic over the last couple of years, but that doesn’t mean that negative influences on the planet's health from causes such as climate change and pollution have gone away. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that more than thirteen million deaths around the world each year are due to avoidable environmental causes.  More worryingly, a WHO study  undertaken in advance of World Health Day has revealed that 99% of the global population is now breathing air that exceeds WHO air quality limits.
When we think of the impact of poor air quality, it might be easy to concentrate on the effect on our lungs, with damage from nitrogen dioxide and particulates leading to asthma and other breathing problems. However, there is also a growing body of evidence to show that particulates will enter the bloodstream, leading to cardiovascular and other damage to health.
One area worth considering is the relationship between air pollution and damage to the eyes. If you have been exposed to pollution or smoke, you may be familiar with a pricking sensation in your eyes or find that you have developed dry or sore eyes. However, the effects of pollution on the eyes may well last longer than a short-lived irritation.
A 2021 study by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast  and published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology indicated that higher exposure to air pollution could make the cells of the eye more vulnerable to damage, affect the retinal layer thickness, and increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Moreover, a 2022 review of existing studies on pollution and eye health highlighted how different types of pollution could affect the eyes differently; cataracts, glaucoma, uveitis, and diabetic retinopathy are also linked to air pollution.
And that’s before we start to consider the potential impact of climate change, with a reduction in the ozone layer increasing harmful UV rays, which can lead to cataracts and other eye damage. It’s no wonder that the WHO commented that: “The climate crisis is also a health crisis.” 
That’s why the theme of 2022 World Health Day is so important. We aren’t just looking after the planet for the planet's sake. Having a clear vision of the future, which includes a reduction in air pollution, could make a difference not only to our health but also to the health of future generations.
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