Researchers have found that air pollution is a leading cause of global death. In fact, they claim that it can raise death risk significantly more than other major causes of loss of life, including smoking, malaria, and general violence.
The research, which now appears in the journal Cardiovascular Research, suggests that policymakers, health organizations, and the media should be focusing far more on air pollution, given the severity of its effects.
Air pollution and human health
Over the years, research has definitively demonstrated the negative health effects of air pollution. It is associated with an increase in cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes, as well as chronic conditions such as asthma. It also has adverse effects on pregnancy, such as preterm birth.
The study authors note that some air pollution is present in the natural world, such as significant amounts of dust in parts of Africa and in the form of particulate given off by wildfires in various places around the world.
However, human influenced factors are also major contributors to air pollution — particularly the burning of fossil fuels in industry and in vehicle engines.
For example, a 2018 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that “[f]ossil fuel combustion byproducts are the world’s most significant threat to children’s health and future and are major contributors to global inequality and environmental injustice.”
According to the new study, addressing these human influenced factors could significantly reduce the number of people dying from exposure to air pollution.