Air Pollution: 5.5 Million Premature Deaths Caused By Air Pollution Each Year [Video]

Air pollution is a killer. At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, it was revealed that 5.5 million people die annually from the effects that it has on the human body. Of those 5.5 million deaths, 3 million occur in China and India. The number was broken down even further; in China, 1.6 million people died while 1.4 million died in India. Doctor Michael Brauer, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health in Vancouver, discussed just how much of a killer air pollution is.

“Air pollution is the fourth highest risk factor for death globally and by far the leading environmental risk factor for disease. Reducing air pollution is an incredibly efficient way to improve the health of a population.”

Regarding China, Dan Greenbaum, the president of the Health Effects Institute in Boston commented on just how intense the air pollution in China is.

“The levels in China in a place like Beijing today are eight to 10 times higher than the healthy standards set by the World Health Organization, so they have a long way to go.”

What Impact Does Air Pollution Have On The Body?

  • The main part of the body impacted by air pollution is the lungs. Breathing in particles from the air in places with large concentrations of pollution can cause asthma and other problems in the respiratory system. Lung function can also decrease.
  • Research has shown that air pollution can compromise the immune and reproductive systems in the body.
  • Chemicals and particles released into the water make their way into the plants, water, and animals. When they are consumed, they can cause chronic conditions that could lead to heart problems or strokes.

Due to the number of yearly deaths, China and India have opted to take action in reducing the amount of air pollution and deaths in their countries. At the Paris climate talks, China stated that their emissions would peak by 2030 and they would start a future of using energy sources that limit the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere. India stated that by 2030 they will have reduced emissions to 35 percent less than what they had in 2005.

Environmental scientists are hoping that the large number of deaths per year is an eye opener for the world. Experts state that by making the changes necessary to reduce air pollution deaths it will also have the greater impact of reducing the rate in the rise of global warming.

The United States and Europe had already begun to make changes prior to the Paris climate talks. Both the United States and Europe saw decreases in air pollution deaths between the years of 1990 and 2013. In the United States, in 1990, 119,000 deaths were attributed to pollution levels. By 2013, the deaths in the United States fell to 79,000. In Europe, in 1990, air pollution deaths were 350,000. By 2013, the number fell to 218,000.

Why does it seem like many people are against making the changes necessary to clean up the air? Doctor Bauer has a theory.

“One of the problems with climate change: people have a difficulty seeing the impacts right now and a lot of it is ‘in the future.’ [Climate change] has a slow, progressive impact, but the work we’re doing on air pollution is a little more immediate for people.”

Qiao Ma, a doctoral student at the School of Environment at Tsinghua University in Beijing, has projected the future to see what might happen if things do not change. Ma claims that if things do not change by 2030, then the world could see 1.3 million more deaths per year due to air pollution.

Do you think air pollution is as big a problem as the experts say it is?

[Image via AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File]