An alarming new study has revealed that air pollution kills more than three (3) million people each year and that the figure is expected double by the time we enter 2050. The most affected areas are Southeast Asia, and the western Pacific.
Researchers say that air pollution predictions based on 2010 figures show that the phenomenon is currently killing about 3.3 million people each year.
But a report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) just last year, and backed up by the new study, has found that air pollution predictions based on 2012 figures show that the phenomenon will end up killing close to seven (7) million people each year, by 2050.
Air pollution is dangerous because ozone and tiny particles can often reach deep inside people’s lungs and cause them to experience lung cancer, heart disease, and strokes.
China has the largest number of victims, with 1.36 million deaths each year, followed by India with 645.000 deaths each year, and Pakistan with 111.000 deaths each year. China and India are well known for their air pollution issues due to their dependence on coal and growing economies.
The researchers of the new study say that the biggest causes for concern are heating houses and cooking meals. Most homes in these countries still use wood, cow dung, or some other biomass for heating and cooking.
Agriculture also plays a major role in air pollution, also known as PM 2.5. Ammonia found in fertilizer and livestock leads to the formation of sulfate particles and ammonium nitrate. And both of them are well known contributors to air pollution.
In fact, the research team informs that agriculture is the biggest cause for concern in the eastern United Sates, Europe, Russia, Turkey, Japan and Korea. One possible explanation is that farmers often live close to population centers (the East Coast for instance), which allows the agriculture sources to interact with various emissions from power generation and traffic, resulting in the formation of dangerous particles.
Jos Lelieveld, co-author on the new paper and field expert from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, gave a statement saying that the study he and his colleagues conducted “clearly shows it’s important to reduce pollution emissions from residential energy use especially in Asia and, by reducing agriculture emission, air quality would improve in Europe and the eastern United States”.
The scientific community has received the research well. Michael Jerrett, field expert from the University of California’s Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (Los Angeles), gave a statement of his own explaining that the results of the new study are “surprising and potentially important for protecting public health globally”.
He went on to that that agriculture “has generally not been seen as a major source of air pollution”, which is why this research may offer new insight and prove to be invaluable in fighting the phenomenon.
The findings were published earlier this week, on Wednesday (September 16, 2015), in the journal Nature.
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