A new study has said that rising levels of smokestack emissions from oceangoing ships will cause an estimated 87,000 deaths worldwide each year by 2012. This number is almost one-third higher than previously believed.
The study says that government action to reduce sulfur emissions from shipping fuel (the source of air pollution linked to an increased risk of illness and death) could reduce that toll. The study is in the current issue of ACS' Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly publication.
James Winebrake and colleagues note that most oceangoing ships burn fuels with a high sulfur content that averages 2.4 percent. Their smokestacks emit sulfur-containing particles linked to increased risks of lung and heart disease. A 2007 study by the researchers estimated that about 60,000 people died prematurely around the world due to shipping-related emissions in 2002. The new study estimates that the toll could rise to 87,000 by 2012, assuming that the global shipping industry rebounds from the current economic slump and no new regulation occurs.