Air pollution causes nearly seven million deaths a year worldwide

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According to a report by the Health Effects Institute, 4.3 million deaths worldwide were linked in 2016 to outdoor air pollution and 2.6 million more to indoor pollution.

95% of the world’s population breathe dangerously polluted air. This is the conclusion of the annual report on the state of the world’s air published Tuesday by the Health Effects Institute.

Outdoor air pollution is the sixth leading cause of early death in the world ahead of alcohol, poor nutrition and lack of physical activity, for all ages and gender. According to the report, in 2016, 4.3 million deaths worldwide were related to outdoor pollution. China and India account for more than half of those deaths.

In question, the emission of fine particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers called PM2.5. These particles lead to heart disease, cardiovascular accidents, lung cancer and respiratory accidents. In addition, ozone, a gas produced by atmospheric reactions to CO2 emissions, is also responsible for increasing the number of deaths related to respiratory diseases.

According to the World Health Organization, the concentration of fine particles in relation to the population should be limited to 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air. However, it is 204 micrograms per cubic meter of air in Niger and more than 120 in Cameroon, Egypt and Nigeria. This makes North Africa the world’s most exposed region, just ahead of the Middle East and South Asia.

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In total, the concentration of fine particles in the air relative to the global population has increased by 10% since 2010, but the differences in concentration between countries have also increased. Australia, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, New Zealand and Sweden are among the least affected countries, with a fine particle concentration of less than 8 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

“While developed countries have taken measures to clean up the air, many developing countries have fallen behind in favoring economic growth,” says Bob O’Keefe, the vice president of HEI to the Guardian.

Another factor of death, in the eighth place of the ranking, behind alcohol: indoor air pollution. This is related to the use of solid fuels for cooking or to the heating in some homes, such as wood or manure.

Indoor air pollution represents 2.6 million deaths in 2016. However. According to the report, the number of homes that use solid fuel continues to decrease, from 3.6 billion in 1990 to 2.4 billion today. For Bob O’Keefe, this positive development is related to the development of the Internet. “A growing number of people now have access to information and debate about air pollution,” he says.

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Shakes Gilles

Editor of The Talking Democrat. He enjoys bike riding, kayaking and playing soccer. On a slow weekend, you'll find him with a book by the lake.