Researchers warned that if no preventions are taken to improve air quality, by the year 2050, 6.6 million people may die annually because of the amount of pollutants from the ozone layer.
The study was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday. The team of researchers concluded that, in its current state, air pollution kills approximately 3.3 million people annually across the world. The most prevalent cases are in Asia, especially on the heavily urbanized Chinese east coast, where, apart from traffic and agriculture related pollution, even residential emissions such as those coming from cooking have their impact.
Jos Lelieveld, research scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Germany, who was the author of the study, said that the numbers are indeed concerning.
The study also found that in some countries pollution is actually the leading cause of premature death, surpassing smoking and heart diseases. In many countries around the world pollution is a major issue. Researchers warned that the death toll could double over the next three decades, unless measures are taken.
The deadly diseases that are caused by air pollutions are mostly of the time chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, and stroke. Air pollution can also lead to acute respiratory infections and lung cancer.
The study had some holdups, mainly due the fact that air pollution is not monitored in all regions of the world and the toxicity of the particles may vary, depending on the source of pollution. During the study, Lelieveld and his team combined health and population data with a chemistry model of global pollution levels that estimated the contribution of various kinds of atmospheric pollution.
The German scientists found that in China (and India), emissions that are coming from heating and cooking lead to the largest death toll in the world. In other countries, such as the United States, emissions from power generation and traffic contribute the most to the overall pollution of their region.
Agricultural emissions also represent a huge problem, as it is one of the biggest source of the particle that’s responsible for most lung cancers cases. Agricultural emissions are at home in Europe, in eastern United States, and East Asia.
The study certainly justifies why there is more need for air quality control and prevention. The heavily urbanized parts of Asia are particularly concerning, as China is undergoing a period of urban migration and industrialization at a pace unsurpassed by any other nation on Earth.
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