Meeting global air quality guidelines could prevent 2.1 million deaths per year

air pollution
Credit: Peter Griffin/public domain

Improving air quality—in clean and dirty places—could reduce pollution-related deaths worldwide by millions of people each year. That finding comes from a team of environmental engineering and public health researchers who developed a global model of how changes in outdoor air pollution could lead to changes in the rates of health problems such as heart attack, stroke and lung cancer.

Outdoor particulate air pollution results in 3.2 million premature deaths annually, more than the combined impact of HIV-AIDS and malaria. The researchers found that meeting the World Health Organization's (WHO) particulate guidelines could prevent 2.1 million deaths per year related to outdoor air pollution.

Joshua S. Apte of the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas Austin was lead author of the paper, published June 16 in Environmental Science & Technology. The paper was co-authored by Julian D. Marshall of the University of Minnesota, Aaron J. Cohen of the Health Effects Institute in Boston, and Michael Brauer of the University of British Columbia.

Prior research has emphasized the implications of breathing polluted air. This new study is the first detailed analysis of how improvements in particulate air pollution worldwide would yield improvement in health, and where those improvements would occur.

The researchers looked at outdoor air pollution from particulate matter (PM) smaller than 2.5 microns. Those particles can enter deep into the lungs. Breathing PM is associated with increased risk of , stroke and other cardiovascular disease; respiratory illnesses such as emphysema; and cancer. PM pollution comes from fires, coal power plants, cars and trucks, and agricultural and industrial emissions. In low-income countries, PM also comes from burning coal, wood, crop waste and animal dung for cooking and heating, and from open burning of trash.

"We wanted to determine how much cleaner different parts of the world would need to be in order to substantially reduce death from particulate matter," said Apte. "We believe our model could help in designing strategies to protect public health."

The study used the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation's Global Burden of Disease 2010 database; estimates of PM concentrations derived from ground-based measurements, satellite observations and air pollution models; and WHO's air quality guidelines. Worldwide, most people live in areas with PM concentrations far above WHO's air quality guideline of 10 micrograms per cubic meter, with some parts of India and China experiencing levels that exceed 100.

Confirming the researchers' expectations, the study demonstrated major potential to reduce mortality from PM in the world's most polluted regions.

One of the study's unexpected findings is that cleaning air in less polluted parts of the world, including in North America and Western Europe, can have as much health benefit as similar measures taken in the most polluted areas.

"We were surprised to find the importance of cleaning air not just in the dirtiest parts of the world—which we expected to find—but also in cleaner environments like the U.S., Canada and Europe," said co-author Marshall.

The study determined that meeting WHO's air quality guidelines could prevent up to 1.4 million premature deaths per year in polluted areas such as China, India and Russia. Meeting WHO guidelines in clean regions could reduce from outdoor pollution by more than half a million deaths per year.

Another important finding is that because of aging populations, health risks in many countries will increase even if pollution levels are constant. Older people are more susceptible to air pollution and more at risk than are younger people for such as heart attack and stroke. The study found that with no changes in air pollution, deaths per capita from air pollution would increase 20 to 30 percent during the next 15 years in India and China. If also accounting for population growth, the increase in deaths would be even greater if those countries experience no change in air pollution.

The study helps to meet a gap in knowledge about how stricter outdoor air pollution controls could benefit global health. In May, WHO called for more research into air pollution and passed a resolution to address the health effects of , which they call "the world's largest single environmental risk."

"Our study demonstrates that continued progress on air quality can deliver major public health benefits to nearly all regions of the world," co-author Brauer said.


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Citation: Meeting global air quality guidelines could prevent 2.1 million deaths per year (2015, June 16) retrieved 16 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-06-global-air-quality-guidelines-million.html
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User comments

Jun 16, 2015
To the Penny-counters:

How much is the life of your children worth?

Jun 16, 2015
Meeting global air quality guidelines could prevent 2.1 million deaths per year


Horseshit

Jun 16, 2015
Thanks for answering my question.

Jun 16, 2015
You can't "prevent" death. At best you can prolong a life for a few years, but they will still die anyway, therefore the headline is most certainly incorrect.

Banning cigarettes and alcohol would bring about an immediate improvement in the average life expectancy, even when you consider many people would still smoke and drink illegally.

If you want to extend life expectancy start by banning things specifically known to cause early death: cigarettes, alcohol, and enforce the federal ban on Marijuana which is being violated by Colorado.

The collective I.Q. would improve by probably half a standard deviation or more just from banning those things and enforcing the ban, not to mention life span.

It has been shown that smoking 1 joint per week reduces a person's I.Q. by 8 points over their lifespan. Those 8 points are half a standard deviation.

Jun 16, 2015
"It has been shown that smoking 1 joint per week reduces a person's I.Q. by 8 points over their lifespan."
---------------------------------------------

Fox will do the same thing in a month.

Jun 16, 2015
"It has been shown that smoking 1 joint per week reduces a person's I.Q. by 8 points over their lifespan."
---------------------------------------------

Fox will do the same thing in a month.


So does Pot make people stupid, or do only stupid people do Pot?

Those 8 points are significant. That's the difference between being better than China on average, and being worse than China on average.

Jun 16, 2015
Anyone who calls it "pot" displays his ignorance of the topic.

Jun 16, 2015
I think we've got an addict here. When confronted with facts, lash out.

Your pleasure centers have been compromised. You are defending your own irrational behavior with yet more irrational behavior.

Jun 16, 2015
Oh, my!

I doubt if that source of air pollution ranks on the scale, but you are welcome to bring it up. But call it Cannabis.

"Pot" is SO Reefer Madness.

Jun 16, 2015
Prescription drugs kill 10s of millions each year. If they were banned think how many lives would be saved.


Jun 20, 2015
We can save 2.1 million lives by taking lots of money away from people and spending it on very important stuff (like more studies), we cant identify any of the people who will be saved or tell you where they live or how they will be saved because all we have is a completely unverifiable statistical model. Oh and there are very real costs to all the people whose money we are going to take and whose lives we will regulate which may cause them hurt and perhaps death but we dont care about serfs and peons enough to bother formulating a statistical theory about the damage we are going to do.

Jun 21, 2015
Hey, Burns, I got my opinion on this situation by earning a Master of Science in the field. Apparently you did not. Did you get yours from Fox?

Shall we debate the issue? Let's start with the acidification of the oceans. What is your take on the loss of shells in the copepods?

Jun 22, 2015
Hey, Burns, I got my opinion on this situation by earning a Master of Science in the field. Apparently you did not. Did you get yours from Fox?

Shall we debate the issue?
Lets start with your mistaken impression that dried manure, which your degree taught you is called 'volatile solids' (something else entirely), is a major constituent of 'high atmosphere' (wheres that george?) pollution in the central valley (its at the bottom of the list).

Obviously your degree is as worthless as the turds you drop here daily.

Jun 22, 2015
You can't "prevent" death
@returners
your semantic argument will not hold up with known actions like using defibrillators to restart a normal sinus rythm, nor does it hold water when you bleed off the pericardium during a pericardial tamponade... or even fixing a lung after pneumothorax

your argument only works when you despise living (and other mental issues that are similar or affect perceptions of reality) or when the perceived danger can be mitigated by long term medication or better care in life, like COPD, pneumonia, or other possible life threatening problems that can be prolonged through various medical means
does Pot make people stupid, or do only stupid people do Pot?
depends on who you ask
it depends a LOT on amount of use, type of marijuana, additives, cut methods of the dealer, and more

http://www.webmd....suggests

i suggest sticking to the SCIENCE
not anecdote



Jun 23, 2015
"it depends a LOT on amount of use, type of marijuana, additives, cut methods of the dealer, and more"
-------------------------------------------

"Cut"? Additives?

You are getting really bad stuff.

Jun 23, 2015
"does Pot make people stupid, or do only stupid people do Pot?"
------------------------------------------

Silicon Valley runs on it, Stupid.

Jun 23, 2015
I got a one from some vandal who probably thinks there really is a Silicon Valley. It is the Santa Clara Valley.

He may not know the difference between silicon and silicone. I see that a lot from folk who do not get out much.

Silicon is in his watch, silicone is in his girlfriend.

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