Choked | Beth Gardiner

Summary of: Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution
By: Beth Gardiner

Final Recap

Gardiner’s ‘Choked’ drives home the urgency of the global air pollution crisis, stressing how millions face the hazardous effects of polluted air every day. The summary exposes the key sources of pollution, including transport, coal, and industrial farming, damaging the health of populations around the world. It also stresses the imperative for governments and industries to prioritize public health and adopt cleaner, more sustainable practices to curb the menace of air pollution. Although progress has been made in some countries like China and the United States, the book ultimately serves as a sobering wake-up call, reminding us that the situation remains dire and that collective action is crucial in safeguarding the health and well-being of current and future generations.


In the book ‘Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution,’ author Beth Gardiner brings attention to the global crisis of air pollution, the leading environmental threat to human health. The summary delves into the sources of pollution like vehicle exhaust, coal, and industrial-scale agriculture, which continue to plague cities such as Los Angeles, New Delhi, and Krakow. It also highlights the devastating health impacts of air pollution, including links to cancer, heart disease, and dementia. Gardiner’s account emphasizes the need for nations to take urgent action to mitigate pollution in order to save lives and protect public health.

Poisonous Air

Air pollution is a severe public health hazard that causes millions of premature deaths worldwide. Beth Gardiner, in her book, provides compelling and nuanced reporting on the hazards associated with air pollution, including its links to several chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and dementia. Gardiner presents a compelling case, highlighting the urgency for measures that can alleviate the damage caused by pollution. Her grounded and calm reporting style enables readers to connect with the magnitude of the issue, inspiring them to push for solutions to this deadly issue.

Urban Air Pollution Hazards

The book reveals how the various forms of air pollution, including PM2.5, NOx, and ozone are posing serious health hazards to city dwellers. The scale, extent and force of their impact on human health has been underestimated in the past. Despite the long-lasting effects of pollution, people continue to expose themselves to it, posing a growing threat to world populations.

India’s Pollution Crisis

India’s rapid development comes at a severe cost as air pollution affects millions of people. Nine of the world’s 10 most polluted cities are in India with New Delhi being the worst. Indians suffer from poor lung health and have the highest mortality rate from respiratory disease. Pollution disproportionately affects poor people, with small-scale manufacturing and gasoline-powered generators being significant polluters. The country’s focus on improving the quality of life for its millions of impoverished citizens has come at the expense of environmental concerns. Cleaning up India’s polluted air remains a daunting task due to the sheer number and variety of pollutants.

Deadly Diesel Cars in London

Over 9000 Londoners die every year due to air pollution, with diesel-fueled cars being a major contributor. Policies that encouraged the purchase of diesel cars have resulted in almost 11 million cars producing lethal emissions, making Britons twice as likely to die from air pollution compared to Americans.

Poland’s Coal Dependency

Poland relies heavily on coal for its energy, generating 85% of its electricity through this dangerous fuel. As a result, the country is responsible for more than half of Europe’s most polluted cities, with Krakow being the worst affected. Coal emits deadly chemicals such as mercury, lead, and carbon monoxide, causing thousands of deaths annually beyond Poland’s borders.

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