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Air pollution threat measured

Wednesday March 13th, 2019

Air pollution is a larger threat to global health than previously believed, researchers have warned.

New modelling techniques have been used by researchers in Germany, led by Professor Thomas Munzel of the University Medical Centre Mainz, to examine excess deaths due to air pollution.

The team states in the European Heart Journal yesterday (12 March) that: “Ambient air pollution is a major health risk, leading to respiratory and cardiovascular mortality.”

The team calculated hazard ratio functions using ambient air pollution exposure information to look at risk in Europe. This model simulates atmospheric chemical processes and their interactions with land, sea and chemicals from sources including energy generation, industry, traffic and agriculture.

This showed that about 790,000 deaths in Europe each year are likely due to air pollution. The team add that 40% to 80% of this excess mortality is from cardiovascular events.

They write: “We estimate that air pollution reduces the mean life expectancy in Europe by about 2.2 years. The health impacts attributable to ambient air pollution in Europe are substantially higher than previously assumed.”

The team conclude: “Our results imply that replacing fossil fuels by clean, renewable energy sources could substantially reduce the loss of life expectancy from air pollution.”

Professor Munzel said: “To put this into perspective, this means that air pollution causes more extra deaths a year than tobacco smoking, which the World Health Organisation estimates was responsible for an extra 7.2 million deaths in 2015. Smoking is avoidable but air pollution is not.

“When we use clean, renewable energy, we could reduce air pollution-related death rates in Europe by up to 55%.”

Lelieveld, J. et al. Cardiovascular disease burden from ambient air pollution in Europe reassessed using novel hazard ratio functions. European Heart Journal 12 March 2019 doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehz135

https://academic.oup.com/eurheartj/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/eurheartj/ehz135

Tags: Europe | Heart Health | Respiratory

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