Over 8.8 million extra deaths are caused by air pollution world wide per year, according to a new report released by the European Society of Cardiology.
The grim toll was tallied by using a new methodology of tracking the effects of various outdoor pollution on death rates, concluding that between 40-80% of these additional deaths were caused by cardiovascular diseases (CVD), such as heart attacks and stroke, a major contributor to which is air pollution.
“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,” said co-author of the study Professor Thomas Münzel from the University Medical Centre Mainz.
“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.”
The researchers used exposure data from a model that simulates atmospheric chemical processes, and concluded that worldwide, air pollution is responsible for 120 extra deaths per year per 100,000 of the world’s population.
As a result of these findings, the researchers say that national governments and international agencies must take urgent action to reduce air pollution, including re-evaluating legislation on air quality and lowering the EU’s current limits on the annual average levels of air pollution to match the WHO guidelines.