Air pollution is linked to several health hazards. Researchers have revealed that air pollution claims some 3.3 million lives globally every year. The vast majority of victims, nearly 75%, died from strokes and heart attacks triggered mainly by long-term inhalation of dust-like particles floating in the air, while the remainder succumbed due to respiratory diseases and lung cancer.
Study co-author Jos Lelieveld of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany, "Smouldering cooking and heating fires in India and China were the single biggest danger, accounting for a third of deaths attributed to outdoor pollution."
These statistics support a 2014 World Health Organization (WHO) report that blamed a similar number of deaths on outdoor pollution, and another 4.3 million per year on pollution within the home or other buildings. The team of researchers forecast that unless stricter regulations are adopted, the number of deaths from outdoor pollution would double to 6.6 million by 2050.
Lelieveld said, "If this growing premature mortality by air pollution is to be avoided, intensive control measures will be needed especially in south and east Asia."
In Russia, the eastern United States and east Asia, agriculture was responsible for the bulk of pollution with fine particles under 2.5 microns in size. These particles are small enough to easily penetrate the lungs. Ammonia released by fertilizer use combines with the dangerous sulfates and nitrates in car exhaust fumes, to make the tiny particles.
The team said, "The combination is deadly in the Western world. Their calculations suggested car exhaust caused about 20% of pollution-related deaths in Britain, Germany and the US, while the global average is about 5%.
The research team used computer models combining air quality measurements, population and health statistics and data on the health risks of breathing in pollution. Lelieveld said, "The study offered the most complete picture yet as it included data on the risks in heavily-polluted places such as parts of China, while previous research relied mainly on conditions in the United States and Europe. Humans are not the sole source of deadly air pollution on Earth, desert dust was linked to at least one in 10 deaths."
The study in published in Nature.