‘Air pollution deaths are double earlier estimates’

On average a toxic cocktail of pollutants shortens the lives prematurely by 2.2 years

On average a toxic cocktail of pollutants shortens the lives prematurely by 2.2 years

By comparison, the World Health Organization assigned 7.2 million deaths to smoke in 2015.

Although it was previously thought that emissions were responsible for around 40,000 deaths in the United Kingdom, new figures suggest it is closer to 64,000, just 18 per cent less than the 78,000 deaths caused by tobacco.

Air pollution is killing more people every year than smoking, according to research published on Tuesday that called for urgent action to stop burning fossil fuels.

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 causes more deaths globally than smoking and kills twice as many people as previously thought, including 64,000 a year in the United Kingdom, a study has found.

In Europe alone, researchers put the excess death toll at 790,000 - twice the previous estimate.

"Smoking can be avoided, but air pollution cannot", says another researcher, Professor Thomas Münzel of the Department of Cardiology at the Medical University Center in Mainz, Germany, quoted by bTV. That figure is higher in Europe, with 133 extra deaths a year per 100,000, according to the study.

The new study "suggests earlier models underestimated the cardiovascular risk associated with air pollution, and we tend to agree", said Holly Shiels, a researcher in the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences at the University of Manchester.

It used computer simulations of interacting natural and man-made chemicals combined with new information about population density, disease risk factors and causes of death.

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.

The WHO has recommended that the density in the air of these risky microscopic particles should not exceed, on average, 10 microgrammes per cubic metre (35 mcg/m3) per year. This is higher than the planet-wide findings of an additional 120 deaths per year per 100,000 inhabitants.

"In Europe the maximum permissible value ... is much too high", said Lelieveld and co-author Prof. 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. "We need to see these worldwide guidelines in United Kingdom law in order to drive decisive action to tackle air pollution and protect the nation's health". Even at this level, several European countries regularly exceed the limit. Air pollution is known to cause such diseases, including increased blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart attacks and heart failure.

In May 2018, the World Health Organization estimated that air pollution in cities and rural areas had resulted in 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide in 2016.

Fine dust particles in the air are particularly unsafe to health because they penetrate deep into the lungs and may even pass into the bloodstream. When we use clean, renewable energy, we are not just fulfilling the Paris Agreement to mitigate the effects of climate change, we could also reduce air pollution-related death rates in Europe by up to 55%.