Study: Stopping Human-Caused Air Pollution Would Prevent 5.6 Million Air Pollution Deaths Per Year

This article discusses a study that shows that if we stop human-caused air pollution, it would prevent 5.6 million air pollution deaths per year.

If humans stopped emitting air pollution, an astonishing 5.6 million premature deaths per year due to global outdoor air pollution could be prevented, according to research published Monday. About 65% of these deaths are due to burning of fossil fuels, with the remainder due to such activities as biomass burning and agriculture. Eliminating human-caused air pollution would also significantly reduce drought in monsoon regions, but it would allow more sunlight to reach the surface, increasing Earth’s surface temperature by at least 0.36°C (0.65°F). Overall, the effects would be hugely beneficial.

The study, Effects of fossil fuel and total anthropogenic emission removal on public health and climate, was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) by a team headed by atmospheric researcher Jos Lelieveld of the Max Planck Institute. The study built on their previous work, published on March 12, which found that the health burden of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution is much higher than has been previously assumed. They concluded that outdoor air pollution from PM2.5 and ozone causes 8.79 million premature deaths globally each year. Of that total, natural sources of outdoor air pollution accounted for 3.24 million deaths per year, and human-caused sources were 5.55 million per year. According to air pollution scientist Susan Anenberg of The George Washington University, who was not involved in the study, “these results of the new study are in line with previous research showing that the global burden of ambient PM2.5 on mortality could be substantially larger than previously thought, indicating about a doubling of the estimates currently reported by the Global Burden of Disease study.”

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