LONDON: Air pollution is the leading cause of 790,000 premature deaths every year in Europe and 8.8 million worldwide, doubling recent assessments, according to a study released.
Between 40 and 80 percent of those excess deaths are caused by heart attacks, strokes and other types of cardiovascular disease underestimated up to now as a driver of smog-related mortality, researchers reported.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), non-communicable diseases (NCD) are the globally leading cause of mortality. About 71% of 56 million deaths that occurr worldwide are attributed to NCD, mainly cardiovascular diseases (CVD, 31%), cancers, diabetes, and chronic lung diseases, as by a report published in 2015.
KEY FINDINGS OF THE STUDY:
1. Air pollution kills more than 8 million people worldwide.
2. On average, a toxic cocktail of pollutants from vehicles, industry and agriculture shortens the lives of those who die prematurely by 2.2 years.
3. Air pollution causes more deaths a year than tobacco smoking, which the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated in 2015.
4. The revised number for China is 2.8 million deaths per year, more than two-and-a-half times current estimates.
5. By far, most deaths were attributed to microscopic particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter, known as PM 2.5.
6. By comparison, the average human hair is 60-to-90 microns thick. “New data has become available for fine particulate matter indicating that the hazardous health impact of PM2.5 is much larger than assumed previously,” said Lelieveld.
7. The WHO has recommended that the density in the air of these dangerous microscopic particles should not exceed, on average, 10 microgrammes per cubic metre (35 mcg/m3) per year.
8. Worldwide, the study found that air pollution causes an extra 120 deaths per year per 100,000 people.
About the study
These findings are by this recent Global Exposure Mortality Model, based on an unmatched number of cohort studies in many countries, providing new hazard ratio functions, calling for a re-evaluation of the disease burden.
Accordingly, The new study, published in the European Heart Journal, focused on Europe, but the updated statistical methods were also applied to the rest of the world.
The scientists applied the new Global Exposure Mortality Model to a much-expanded epidemiological database — with updated figures for population density, age, disease risk factors, causes of death — to simulate the way in which natural and man-made chemicals interact with the atmosphere, itself composed of gases.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Health impacts attributable to ambient air pollution in Europe are substantially higher than previously assumed. The results imply that replacing fossil fuels by clean, renewable energy sources could substantially reduce the loss of life expectancy from air pollution.