World Air Pollution Deaths Now Doubled

World Air Pollution Deaths Now Doubled

Worldwide deaths from outdoor air pollution are now estimated at 8.9 million a year.  Many of them occur by inducing the five leading causes of death, led by heart disease.  

The microscopic particles less than 2.5 microns go through the smallest passages in the lungs and go into the blood stream.

The percentages of ailments for air pollution deaths, from the European Heart Journal, are:  heart disease 40%; other non-communicable diseases 32%; stroke 8%; lung cancer 7%; pneumonia 7%; and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 6%.

The average loss of life expectancy for Europe is reduced 2.2years, and for the EU-28 it is 2.1 years.  For Germany, the loss is 2.4 years, for Italy 1.9 years, for Poland 2.8 years, for the UK 1.5 years, and for France 1.6 years.

The concentration of Particulate Matter less than 2.5 microns in size is measured in micrograms/cubic meter, and called PM2.5.  The WHO limits for PM2.5 is 10µg/m^3 for a year, and for PM10 is 20µg/m^3.

We list the world areas by highest to lowest average PM2.5 and deaths per year.

Area.                PM2.5.              Deaths

India.                    74.0.              2,219,000

Middle East.       62.0.                 428,000

China.                   57.5.              2,470,000

Asia (other).        39.1.              1,367,000

Africa.                   36.1.                 691,000

Eastern Europe. 23.2.                 208,000

Russia and EIT.  21.8.                 457,000

Caribbean.           20.2.                   39,000

Latin America.     17.5.                 365,000

Western Europe. 13.4.                 439,000

Oceania.                  8.0.                   18,000

Canada, US.            7.9.                 213,000

Global Total.         43.7.             8,915,000

There are 55.3 million deaths worldwide each year.  So the 8.915 million deaths caused by air pollution are 16.1% of all deaths, or one in six.

In the US, there are 2.63 million deaths per year, and in Canada 0.28 million, for a total of 2.91 million a year.  The  0.213 million caused by ari pollution are 7.3%, or about 1/14th of all deaths.

We have to emphasize that while early deaths affect a sizeable fraction of the population, the daily and hourly effects of pollution affect all in the industrial and city areas.  Half of the world’s population now live in cities, and this percentage will grow.  The number of cars in cities will also grow.  Pollution economically affects areas with hours lost from work by skilled people.  Hospital admissions for asthma and medicines add to the costs.  Students lose days out sick, and recreation that is prohibited or impossible for those seriously affected by smog. 

In cities, the annual means of PM2.5 in China can be as high as 130µg/m^3, and in India, 170µg/m^3.  The daily highs can even exceed 500µg/m^3.

More than 80% of those living in urban areas are exposed to more than the WHO limits. 

The entire coal, oil and natural gas fracking industry also pollutes water supplies.  The oil extraction and injection of fracking water causes earthquakes.

If you hit the topic “Air Quality” in my blog topic list, you come up with my other articles on this, and different measurements and effects of air pollution.

The data are publicized in an article in The Guardian.  The research appeared in the PNAS, Proceedings of the  Academy of Sciences, September 18, 2018, vol. 115, no. 38, pages 9592 to 9597.  Authors Burnett, et al.  Also,


About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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