Air pollution causes 3.3 million deaths per year in the world and is expected to double by 2050, according to a new research published in Nature.
Air pollution has been linked to various diseases such as lung cancer, bronchitis, heart disease, and stroke. Recent study on outdoor air pollution used data from air quality monitoring, sources of emissions, population, and health records to determine the effect of ozone and particulate matter (substances suspended in the air) on air quality and global health.
Residential and commercial (RCO) energy use such as heating and cooking, agriculture, and power generation were the top three sources of pollution that had the highest impact on global premature mortality. RCO alone caused an estimated 1 million deaths per year, mostly in the most populous cities in China, India, and other countries in Southeast Asia. In the USA, Russia, Japan, and most countries in Europe, emissions from agriculture due to the use of fertilizers and livestock farming was the main contributor to air pollution and premature deaths followed by power generation, industrial energy use from manufacturing sectors, and land transportation.
More people have died from pollution-related diseases in urban and densely populated cities compared to rural areas, with about 2 million deaths per year due to coronary heart disease and stroke. Acute lower respiratory illness such as bronchitis was the leading cause of death in children less than 5 years old that has been linked to air pollution.
Based on these findings, the study projected that if current legislation, energy use practices, and health standards do not change, premature deaths due to air pollution would double by 2050. People living in urban areas or megacities are most at risk from pollution-related deaths due to increased population and economic growth. The authors concluded that more effort should be done to control air pollution and further studies are needed to better understand how air pollution causes diseases.
Lelievel J, Evans JS, Fnais M, Giannadaki D, Pozzer A. The contribution of outdoor air pollution sources to premature mortality on a global scale. Nature. 2015; 525: 367-371. doi:10.1038/nature15371
Written by Ana Victoria Pilar, PhD