A group of researchers in Belgium have discovered that air pollution causes more heart attacks than cocaine and about the same amount of incidents as other well known causes such as alcohol, coffee and physical exertion. But they say that the problem is air pollution is not being taken seriously. Because of its population-wide prevalence, dirty air is available for free right outside your door while cocaine is illegal — air pollution seems to be a deadly trigger. And if there is one thing that’s even more deadly than air pollution, alcohol and coffee —  it’s traffic.

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“Physicians are always looking at individual patients — and low risk factors might not look important at an individual level, but if they are prevalent in the population then they have a greater public health relevance,” said Tim Nawrot of the Hasselt University in Belgium, who was the leader of this study. He believes that doctors aren’t looking at air pollution as a cause of heart attacks at all. Nawrot and his team are making this statement to shock doctors into taking air pollution seriously as a health risk. We’re thinking it shouldn’t help just physicians, but their patients and the government, as well.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that air pollution causes 2 million premature deaths annually, yet in countries like the United States, the attempt to curb air pollution has been locked up in legislation every time it is proposed. Most recently, states like Texas have openly defied lawful regulations in favor of taking the federal government to court over their right to spew toxins into the air.

Perhaps governments, and the people of these governments, should start taking this war on air pollution as seriously as they take the war on drugs.

Via Reuters