Air pollution kills more people than smoking, German scientists say

14 Mars, 2019, 15:27 | Auteur: Yves Courtet
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In Germany, air pollution accounts for 154, Poland 150, and the United Kingdom 98 deaths reducing life expectancy by over two years.

A study estimates that 8.8million deaths a year around the world can be attributed to dirty air, chiefly fine sooty particles from auto exhausts, factories and power plants.

Air pollution was thought to have caused 64,000 deaths in the United Kingdom in 2015, including 17,000 fatal cases of heart and artery disease. Air pollution caused twice as many deaths from CVD as from respiratory diseases.

CVD, which includes heart attacks and stroke, was found to be caused by air pollution more frequently than from smoking alone.

"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.

Scientists used new data and the latest computer simulations to calculate the health impact of air pollution from sources such as traffic, industry and electricity generation. They applied these to a new model of global exposure and death rates and to data from the World Health Organization, which included information on population density, geographical locations, ages, risk factors for several diseases and causes of death.

Dust particles with a diameter less than 2.5 microns are more unsafe than previously thought. In Europe and the EU-28, it was even higher, causing 133 and 129 extra deaths a year per 100,000 people, respectively.

Worldwide, the study found that air pollution causes an extra 120 deaths per year per 100,000 people.

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In Germany, air pollution was said to have been responsible for an extra 124,000 deaths in 2015 and 2.4 years of lost life expectancy. 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.

"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.

"The call for reassessment of current United Kingdom and European Union air quality regulations seem highly warranted".

"In Europe the maximum permissible value ... is much too high", said Lelieveld and co-author Prof.

As a result of their findings, researchers claim that governments and global agencies must take urgent action to reduce air pollution.

The new study mainly looked at the effects of PM2.5 particles, the researchers say.

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. Air pollution is known to cause such diseases, including increased blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart attacks and heart failure.

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

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