A new study has found that the number of people killed by air pollution is set to double by 2050, reaching almost 7 million people, on a yearly basis. The most affected regions on the planet are the western Pacific and Southeast Asia.
Field experts say that the phenomenon currently kills 3.3 million people, on a yearly basis, according to air pollution figures from 2010.
But according to a report published last year by the World Health Organization (WHO) the phenomenon is set to kill 6.6 million people, on a yearly basis, by the time we enter 2050. That’s close to seven (7) million yearly victims, based on 2012 figures.
Te reason air pollution is so dangerous is that tiny particles and ozone can often make their way deep inside a person’s lungs, which causes them to develop heart disease, lung cancer, and experience strokes.
As expected, the research team found that China hosts the largest number of victims, 1.36 million deaths on a yearly basis. It’s followed by India, which hosts 645.000 deaths on a yearly basis, and Pakistan which hosts 111.000 deaths on a yearly basis.
China and India are generally recognized as countries with major air pollution issues. This is because they depend heavily on coal and have growing economies that require large quantities of it.
However, the researchers say that the main sources of air pollution in these countries are heating and cooking as most homes and institutions in these parts of the world still rely heavily on wood, cow dung, or other biomass.
A less talked about source or air pollution is agriculture. Ammonia from fertilizer and livestock triggers the formation of sulfate particles and ammonium nitrate, both well known air pollution contributors.
And it turns out that agriculture is actually the main cause of air pollution in several other countries – Korea, Japan, Turkey, Russia, Europe and the eastern United Sates. One likely explanation is that farms can often be found close to population centers.
This enables agriculture sources to mingle with various other emissions from power generation and traffic, and end up forming dangerous particles.
Jos Lelieveld, researcher from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and co-author on the study, offered a statement informing that the research he and his team 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 findings have been well received by the scientific community. Michael Jerrett, researcher from the University of California, the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, Los Angeles, offered a statement of his own informing that the conclusions of this study are “surprising and potentially important for protecting public health globally”.
He added that agriculture “has generally not been seen as a major source of air pollution”, so these new findings may prove to be critical in fighting air pollution on a global level.
The study was published earlier this week, on September 16, 2015, in the journal Nature.
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