Global air pollution may be responsible for more than two million deaths annually, according to a new study in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
For the study, researchers used mathematical models to estimate the health effects of fine particulate matter—tiny particles, or soot, that can be inhaled through the lungs—and ozone, which forms smog.
The researchers estimated that around 470,000 people die each year because of human-caused increases in ozone. Additionally, about 2.1 million deaths are the result of human-caused fine particulate matter, which have been linked to lung cancer and a variety of respiratory diseases.
In a statement, Jason West—a study co-author and research at the University of North Carolina—said, "Our estimates make outdoor air pollution among the most important environmental risk factors for health," adding that a majority of pollution-related deaths occur in East Asia and South Asia, where "population is high and air pollution is severe."
Meanwhile, though climate change can affect air quality in a number of ways, it has only a minimal effect on pollution-related mortality, the researchers concluded (Morin, Los Angeles Times, 7/12).
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