Study says air pollution killing more people than smoking

Smog surrounds The Shard and St Paul’s Cathedral in London Britain

In Europe, analysts trust that air pollution has caused the deaths of around 790,000 individuals - double the previous estimation. Air pollution caused twice as many deaths from CVD as from respiratory diseases. At least 48% are due to cardiovascular disease (ischaemic heart disease and stroke).

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.

Co-author Professor Thomas Munzel, from the University Medical Centre Mainz in Germany, said: 'This means that air pollution causes more extra deaths a year than tobacco smoking, which the World Health Organization estimates was responsible for an extra 7.2million deaths in 2015.

"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.

The number of deaths from cardiovascular disease that can be attributed to air pollution is much higher than expected.

"The revised number for China is 2.8 million deaths per year", more than two-and-a-half times current estimates, lead author Jos Lelieveld, a researcher at the Max-Plank Institute for Chemistry in Germany, told AFP by email.

The researchers used exposure data from a model that simulates atmospheric chemical processes and the way they interact with land, sea and chemicals emitted from natural and man-made sources such as energy generation, industry, traffic and agriculture.

They focused particularly on PM2.5 and ozone.

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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.

Worldwide, air pollution was found to account for 120 extra deaths per 100,000 people per year.

A further 29,000 deaths in Britain were also linked to air pollution which exacerbated other conditions such as cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease. Authors of another study on pollution released a year ago suggested that "fine particle air pollution is the largest environmental risk factor worldwide, responsible for a substantially larger number of attributable deaths than other more well-known behavioral risk factors such as alcohol use, physical inactivity, or high sodium intake". We think this may be explained by more advanced health care in western Europe, where life expectancy is generally higher.

In Germany, air pollution accounts for 154, Poland 150, and the United Kingdom 98 deaths reducing life expectancy by over two years.

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

Professor Münzel is calling on the European Union cut the annual limit of tiny particulate matter in the air from 25 millionths of a gram per cubic metre to 10, which is the level set by the World Health Organisation.

Findings for non-European countries will be published separately, he said. "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.

The link between air pollution and cardiovascular disease, as well as respiratory diseases, is well established.

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