Air Quality

Air pollution killing more people than smoking, say scientists

Person in San Francisco wears mask to shield from air pollution. Photo by Elizabeth Viera, November 2018

LONDON March 12 — “The study, published in the European Heart Journal, focused on ozone and the smallest pollution particles, known as PM2.5, that are particularly harmful to health as they can penetrate into the lungs and may even be able to cross into the blood.

The researchers said new data indicated the hazardous health impact of PM2.5 – the main cause of respiratory and cardiovascular disease – was much worse than previously thought.

They urged a reduction in the upper limit for PM2.5 in the European Union, which is currently set at 25 micrograms per cubic metre, 2.5 times higher than the WHO guideline.

‘In Europe the maximum permissable value … is much too high,’ said Lelieveld and co-author Prof. Thomas Munzel, of the Department of Cardiology of the University Medical Centre Mainz in Germany, in a joint statement.

‘In the USA, Australia and Canada the WHO guideline is taken as a basis for legislation, which is also needed in the EU.’

Worldwide, air pollution caused 120 extra deaths in every 100,000 people per year, with deaths in parts of Europe at an even higher rate of up to 200 in 100,000.

‘To put this into perspective, this means that air pollution causes more extra deaths a year than tobacco smoking,’ said Munzel.

‘Smoking is avoidable but air pollution is not.'”

— Amber Milne, Thomas Reuters Foundation 

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