Air pollution is responsible for shortening people’s lives worldwide on a scale far greater than wars, violence, tobacco and diseases such as HIV and Aids, according to a study published today (March 2) in the journal Cardiovascular Research.
The researchers from the European Society of Cardiology have estimated that globally, air pollution causes an extra 8.8 million premature deaths each year.
In order to estimate these figures, the researchers looked at exposure data from a model that simulates atmospheric chemical processes from natural and human-made sources of pollution.
The researchers then applied this data to a new model of global exposure and death rates, and to data from the Global Burden of Disease. They then estimated the death rates and loss of life expectancy from different causes of air pollution compared to other causes of premature deaths around the world.
The researchers estimated that air pollution reduces average life expectancy for all people worldwide by three years.
In comparison, tobacco shortens life expectancy by 2.2 years, HIV and Aids by 0.7 years and violence and deaths in wars by 0.3 years.
The researchers also looked at the effect of air pollution on various categories of disease, they found the cardiovascular disease is responsible for the greatest proportion of shortened lives from air pollution, contributing to 43% of the loss in life expectancy worldwide.
The researchers have estimated that if air pollution was reduced by removing fossil fuel emissions, the average life expectancy worldwide would increase by over a year.
Prof Thomas MÃ¼nzel said: â€˜Since the impact of air polliution on public health is overall much larger than expected, and is a worldwide phenomenon, we believe our results show there is an air pollution pandemic.
â€˜Both air pollution and smoking are preventable, but over the past decades, much less attention has been paid to air pollution than to smoking, especially among cardiologists.
â€˜It is important that policy-makers and the medical community realise that air pollution is an important risk factor for heart and blood vessel disease.
â€˜It should be included as a risk factor, along with smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure and cholesterol.â€™
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