More deaths caused by the air we breathe than previously believed
For years, large-scale studies have linked air pollution to the incidence of human death. It appears, however, that worldwide assessments may have underestimated just how many deaths may actually be caused by the air that we breathe.
Two members of the uOttawa Faculty of Medicine were featured on the 50+ list of authors of a paper published recently in PNAS, representing a large-scale, innovative analysis of numerous studies from around the world to draw conclusions about the impact of air pollution on worldwide mortality.
Contributions from the Faculty of Medicine include two members of the School of Epidemiology and Public Health: first author Richard Burnett, who assembled the contributors and amalgamated the studies, and Daniel Krewski, contributing his own 20-year study on the relationship between outdoor air pollution and death in Americans.
“The paper’s estimates of how many deaths have been caused by outdoor air pollution are about two-fold larger than previous calculations done under the auspices of the World Health Organization,” says Dr. Krewski. “This suggests that outdoor air pollution is an even more important risk factor for population health than previously thought.”
Specifically, the authors concluded that nearly 9 million deaths are attributable to air pollution each year, notably higher than the 4 million deaths estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) in their Global Burden of Disease (GBD) program.
The paper also suggests that air pollution may contribute to some diseases that until now were not thought to be linked to air pollution.
“Society must continue and even intensify our efforts to lower outdoor air pollution, including emissions from vehicles, industrial facilities, coal-fired power plants and other major contributors,” warns Krewski.
Main photo credit: Freepik