Air pollution deaths are double earlier estimates

Alicia Farmer
March 14, 2019

People living in Britain have one and a half years slashed from their life expectancy due to air pollution, warns new research.

The study, published Tuesday in the European Heart Journal, found that air pollution caused an estimated 8.8 million extra deaths worldwide in 2015, topping previous estimates that suggested rising levels of air pollution caused 4.5 million and 6.5 million premature deaths in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Co-author Professor Thomas Munzel, from the University Medical Centre Mainz in Germany, said: 'This means that air pollution causes more extra deaths a year than tobacco smoking, which the World Health Organization estimates was responsible for an extra 7.2million deaths in 2015.

The research explores the pollution to dirty air - generally, the particles that are released by exhausts, power plants and factories. microscopic PM 2.5 particles can move toward becoming held up in the lungs and enter the bloodstream, making the condition worse, as per the experts.

Air pollution can affect your heart and blood circulation in a number of ways, primarily by damaging the walls of your blood vessels and causing them to become narrower.

Around 64,000 deaths in the United Kingdom were believed to be connected to air pollution in 2015, including 17,000 instances of heart and artery illness and 29,000 instances of lung disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Average life expectancy was reduced by 1.5 years among people in the United Kingdom dying as a result of air pollution, the study found.

Professors Münzel and Lelieveld emphasise that, in terms of air pollution, PM2.5 particles are the main cause of respiratory and cardiovascular disease.

"Since most of the particulate matter and other air pollutants in Europe come from the burning of fossil fuels, we need to switch to other sources for generating energy urgently", said co-author Prof.

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Worldwide, air pollution caused 120 extra deaths in every 100,000 people per year, with deaths in parts of Europe at an even higher rate of up to 200 in 100,000.

The WHO has recommended that the density in the air of these unsafe microscopic particles should not exceed, on average, 10 microgrammes per cubic metre (35 mcg/m3) per year.

In Europe, specifically, pollution has caused almost 800,000 deaths at a rate of 133 per 100,000.

"This is explained by the combination of poor air quality and dense population, which leads to exposure that is among the highest in the world", said lead author Jos Lelieveld, a researcher at the Max-Plank Institute for Chemistry, also in Mainz.

Findings for non-European countries will be published separately, he said. Many other countries, such as Canada, the United States of America and Australia use the World Health Organization guideline; the European Union is lagging a long way behind in this respect.

Prof Munzel added: "The number of deaths from cardiovascular disease that can be attributed to air pollution is much higher than expected".

Fine dust particles in the air are particularly risky to health because they penetrate deep into the lungs and may even pass into the bloodstream. "While much of the push for a rapid shift to clean, renewable energy economy rightfully focuses on climate change, we should also remember that moving to wind, solar and geothermal systems will also eliminate all the fossil fuel-emitted air pollution that is cutting many thousands of lives short every day", Edwards added.

Limitations of the study include the fact there is statistical uncertainty surrounding the estimates, so the size of the effect of air pollution on deaths could be larger or smaller.

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