A new study suggests that the number of early air pollution deaths per year is double that of previous estimates.
It has been published in the European Heart Journal, and has found that the number of air pollution deaths could be approximately 8.8 million per year. Professor Thomas Münzel, of the Department of Cardiology of the University Medical Centre Mainz in Mainz, Germany, said: “To put this into perspective, 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 7.2 million deaths in 2015. Smoking is avoidable but air pollution is not.”
Air pollution and cardiovascular disease
Munzel added: “The number of deaths from cardiovascular disease that can be attributed to air pollution is much higher than expected. In Europe alone, the excess number of deaths is nearly 800,000 a year and each of these deaths represents an average reduction in life expectancy of more than two years.”
The new statistics on air pollution deaths
The researchers used a new method to model the effects of various outdoor air pollution sources on death rates.
They found that:
• Air pollution causes an estimated 790,000 extra deaths in the whole of Europe in 2015 and 659,000 deaths in the 28 Member States of the European Union (EU-28);
• Of these deaths, between 40-80% were due to cardiovascular diseases (CVD), such as heart attacks and stroke;
• Air pollution caused twice as many deaths from CVD as from respiratory diseases; and
• Worldwide, air pollution is responsible for 120 extra deaths per year per 100,000 of the population.
Why does Europe have such a high number of air pollution deaths?
Co-author, Professor Jos Lelieveld, of the Max-Plank Institute for Chemistry in Mainz and the Cyprus Institute Nicosia, Cyprus, explained: “The high number of extra deaths caused by air pollution in Europe is explained by the combination of poor air quality and dense population, which leads to exposure that is among the highest in the world. Although air pollution in eastern Europe is not much worse than in western Europe, the number of excess deaths it caused was higher. We think this may be explained by more advanced health care in western Europe, where life expectancy is generally higher.”