Paris: Air pollution causes damage to the blood vessels through greater oxidative stress, leading to an increase in blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart attacks and heart failure, a study has found.
According to scientists, air pollution causes 8.8 million premature deaths annually. The Journal of Cardiovascular Research reported that eliminating the toxic cocktail of molecules and lung-clogging particles cast off by burning oil, gas and coal would restore a full year of life expectancy.
Coronary heart disease and stroke account for almost half of those deaths, with lung diseases and other non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure accounting for most of the rest and 6 percent of mortality stemming from polluted air is due to lung cancer.
Our results show there is an ‘air pollution pandemic’. Both air pollution and smoking are preventable, but over the past decades much less attention has been paid to air pollution than to smoking. The worst-hit region is Asia, where the average lifespan is cut 4.1 years short in China, 3.9 years in India, and 3.8 years in Pakistan.
— Thomas Munzel, Max Planck Institute
Other research has shown that in some parts of these countries, toxic air takes an even steeper toll. For instance in India’s Uttar Pradesh (home to 200 million), small particle pollution by itself slashes life expectancy by 8.5 years, while in China’s Hubei Province (population 74 million) the shortfall is nearly six years, according to the Air Quality Life Index developed by researchers at the Energy Policy Institute of Chicago.
African lives are also foreshortened by 3.1 years on average, with people in some nations like Chad, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire losing 4.5-7.3 years.
Other nations are equally affected. Even among the wealthier nations like the Soviet Union’s former satellite states especially Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania have the deadliest pollution.
Unavoidable excess mortality stems from natural dust storms, such as in central Asia and northern Africa, along with forest fires, though both phenomena are being amplified by man-made climate change.
According to climate scientists, the least-impacted regions of the world are America, western and northern Europe, and small island states.
Estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) state that the figure of 8.8 million premature deaths from outdoor air pollution each year is double and the revised number for China is 2.8 million premature deaths each year.
The researchers said there are signs in India, China and other emerging economies that people are growing intolerant of life-shortening toxic air.
Data from the Global Burden of Disease suggested that to assess the impact of air pollution on life expectancy, researchers applied data on exposure to micro-particles (PM 2.5) and ozone for the year 2015 to models that simulate how chemical processes in the atmosphere interact with natural and manmade pollutants.