by Somini Sengupta, The New York Times, 3-4-2020
Air pollution is killing more people than war, malaria or cigarettes. That’s the conclusion of a scientific paper published this week that quantified the causes of premature deaths from various sources. It found that, in 2015, the one year investigated, 8.8 million excess deaths could be attributed to air pollution, which is far greater than any other cause of premature mortality. Smoking was nearly as bad, killing 7.2 million that year, the study found. Vector-borne diseases like malaria caused 600,000 deaths. Violence, including wars, claimed 530,000 lives. One of the lead researchers, Thomas Münzel, a cardiologist at the Johannes Gutenberg University Medical Center in Mainz, Germany, said in a statement, “We believe our results show there is an ‘air pollution pandemic.’”
The study, published in the journal Cardiovascular Research, investigated what effect air pollution has on things like cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, respiratory tract infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Among those, they found that cardiovascular disease claimed the most lives. The researchers pressed health professionals, especially cardiologists, to pay more attention to air pollution impacts.
Their calculations suggested that air pollution shortened life expectancy by nearly three years. Most of the deaths were among people over 60. East Asia and South Asia were the worst-hit parts of the world.