A new study has found that air-pollution may be the actual cause of death for as many as 2 million people worldwide each year.
A study published today in Environmental Research Letters has found that air pollution has serious health effects on human beings, causing millions of deaths each year.
The research paper estimates that upwards of 470,000 people die every year because of ozone alone. While ozone does some good in the upper atmosphere, we’re talking about ozone on ground level, where it does no good at all. Of course, that’s nothing compared to the 2.1 million people who die due to increases in “fine particulate matter”, tiny bits of pollution that hangs in the air and can cause respiratory illnesses, even cancer, if inhaled.
Jason West from the University of North Carolina is co-author on the study. “Our estimates make outdoor air pollution among the most important environmental risk factors for health,” he explains, “Many of these deaths are estimated to occur in East Asia and South Asia, where population is high and air pollution is severe.”
Curiously, West has found that a changing climate has relatively small effects on the pollution on a larger scale. Since the industrial era began, the study claims that only around 1500 deaths per year due to ozone and 2200 deaths due to particles, can be attributed to climate change. “Very few studies have attempted to estimate the effects of past climate change on air quality and health. We found that the effects of past climate change are likely to be a very small component of the overall effect of air pollution,” says West.
The research team also compared their results to previous studies, but they found that results varied depending on which climate model was used. “We have also found that there is significant uncertainty based on the spread among different atmospheric models. This would caution against using a single model in the future, as some studies have done,” continued West.