A new study suggests that 8.8 million deaths per year around the world can be attributed to dirty air, chiefly fine sooty particles pouring out of vehicle exhausts, factories and power plants.
Air pollution has caused the death of 8.8 million people in 2015 - nearly double the previous estimate of 4.5 million, according to researchers from Germany and Cyprus. "Smoking is avoidable but air pollution is not", said Thomas Münzel, a co-author and cardiology professor at the University Medical Centre Mainz in Germany, in a statement said.
About half of the air pollution deaths are from heart disease and stroke, with lung cancer and penumonia the next most common causes, according to the research, by the Max Planck Institute in Germany.
There were 64,000 deaths in the United Kingdom linked to air pollution in 2015, according to...
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.
Cases of lung and cardiovascular disease were mainly caused by microscopic "PM 2.5" particles that become lodged in lungs and enter the bloodstream, said the researchers.
"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 the study's co-author Professor Jos Lelieveld of the Max-Plank Institute for Chemistry in Mainz and the Cyprus Institute Nicosia in Cyprus. That's twice as many deaths from cardiovascular disease than respiratory illnesses.
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.
Europe seems to be more terrible than the other countries of the world, with 133 of every 100,000 deaths related to air pollution, as compared to 120 out of 100,000 deaths internationally. The findings were particularly grim for Eastern Europe, with countries like Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Ukraine reporting an excess death rate of over 200 each year per 100,000 of the population, researchers said. Although air pollution in eastern Europe is not much worse than in western Europe, the number of excess deaths it caused was higher.
"The current limit of 25 μg/m3 should be adjusted downwards to the World Health Organization guideline of 10 μg/m3".
Previous estimates have put early deaths from air pollution at 39,000 a year in the UK. "Indeed, new evidence may lead to a further lowering of the World Health Organization guideline in the near future", Munzel is quoted as saying by the European Society of Cardiology. It causes damage to the blood vessels through increased oxidative stress, which then leads to increases in blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart attacks and heart failure.
Controlling fine dust in the air by limiting agricultural emissions, responsible for emitting a considerable amount of fine particulate matter in the air, might help further reduce the aftermath of air pollution, researchers suggested.
"When we use clean, renewable energy, we are not just fulfilling the Paris Agreement to mitigate the effects of climate change".
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.