Researchers: Air Pollution Kills Twice As Many People Than Previously Thought

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In 2015, 8.8 million deaths worldwide were caused by air pollution alone.

A new estimate published in the European Heart Journal estimated that air pollution causes two times as many deaths in Europe than previously thought. The researchers used a new model to gauge the effects of various sources of outdoor air pollution, finding that it caused 790,000 extra deaths in all of Europe in 2015. 40-80% of the deaths were attributed to cardiovascular diseases (CVD) such as heart attacks—more than twice the amount of deaths caused by respiratory diseases from air pollution.

The researches also estimated that air pollution was responsible for 8.8 million extra deaths worldwide, nearly doubling the previously estimated figure of 4.5 million. "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,” co-author of the study Thomas Münzel from the Department of Cardiology of the University Medical Centre Mainz said. “Smoking is avoidable but air pollution is not."

He continued, "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."

Co-author Professor Jos Lelieveld said: "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.”

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