Toxic cocktail of pollutants: Air pollution deaths are double earlier estimates

Smog surrounds The Shard and St Paul’s Cathedral in London Britain

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates smoking kills about seven million people a year globally.

Although it was previously thought that emissions were responsible for around 40,000 deaths in the United Kingdom, new figures suggest it is closer to 64,000, just 18 per cent less than the 78,000 deaths caused by tobacco.

Thomas Munzel, a co-author of the study and professor in the Department of Cardiology of the University Medical Centre Mainz in Mainz, Germany, said the number of cardiovascular disease deaths linked to air pollution "is much higher than expected".

Air pollution causes 790,000 premature deaths annually in Europe, double the number quoted by recent World Health Organization (WHO) assessments, according to a study published Tuesday in the European Heart Journal.

Researchers in Germany and Cyprus estimated that air pollution caused 8.8 million extra deaths in 2015 - nearly double the previously estimated 4.5 million. "In Europe alone, the excess number of deaths is almost 800,000 a year and each of these deaths represents an average reduction in life expectancy of more than two years".

"Smoking can be avoided, but air pollution cannot", says another researcher, Professor Thomas Münzel of the Department of Cardiology at the Medical University Center in Mainz, Germany, quoted by bTV.

Jos Lelieveld, of the Max-Plank Institute for Chemistry in Mainz and the Cyprus Institute Nicosia, Cyprus. In Europe and the EU-28, it was even higher, causing 133 and 129 extra deaths a year per 100,000 people, respectively.

The complex study involved computer simulations of interacting natural and man-made chemicals combined with new information about population density, disease risk factors, and causes of death.

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Professors Münzel and Lelieveld emphasise that, in terms of air pollution, PM2.5 particles are the main cause of respiratory and cardiovascular disease. This is higher than the planet-wide findings of an additional 120 deaths per year per 100,000 inhabitants.

In Germany, air pollution accounts for 154, Poland 150, and the United Kingdom 98 deaths reducing life expectancy by over two years.

"They should re-evaluate legislation on air quality and lower the EU's current [air pollution] limits", he said. Authors of another study on pollution released past year suggested that "fine particle air pollution is the largest environmental risk factor worldwide, responsible for a substantially larger number of attributable deaths than other more well-known behavioral risk factors such as alcohol use, physical inactivity, or high sodium intake".

"Governments and global agencies must take urgent action to reduce air pollution", said Professor Thomas Münzel.

Now the average safety limit for PM2.5 particles in the European Union is 25 micrograms per cubic metre of air. Between 40 percent to 80 percent of those deaths came from either heart attacks or strokes.

"When we use clean, renewable energy, we are not just fulfilling the Paris Agreement to mitigate the effects of climate change, we could also reduce air pollution-related death rates in Europe by up to 55 per cent".

PM2.5 consists of microscopic solids and liquid droplets in the air that are so small they can be inhaled and even absorbed by the bloodstream, according to the WHO.

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