Air pollution linked to 6.1m global deaths

Over 95% of the world’s population live in areas of unhealthy air, according to a study published today (17 April) by the Health Effects Institute, a US-based research body.

The report, State of Global Air 2018, suggests that exposure to outdoor and indoor air pollution contributed to as many as 6.1 million premature deaths from stroke, heart attack, lung cancer and chronic lung disease in 2016.

Countries including India are among those with the highest risk of harm to citizens from air pollution

Looking at pollutants including fine particles (PM2.5) and Ozone, the report suggests that countries including Egypt, Cameroon, Niger and Saudi Arabia in Africa, and Bangladesh and India in South East Asia had some of the populations at the most risk.

According to HEI, this makes air pollution the fourth highest cause of death among all health risks, exceeded only by high blood pressure, diet, and smoking.

Commenting on the report, Bob O’Keefe, Vice President of HEI, said: “Air pollution takes a huge personal toll worldwide, making it difficult to breathe for those with respiratory disease, sending the young and old to hospital, missing school and work, and contributing to early death. The trends we report show real progress in some parts of the world — but serious challenges remain to eliminate this avoidable affliction,” he added.

Included in the 2018 report includes are estimates of exposure to and health burdens of outdoor air pollution, as well as those associated with indoor solid fuel burning in homes.


One in three global citizens were exposed to household air pollution from the use of solid fuels (for example, wood, charcoal, coal dung, or other biomass for cooking and heating, the report suggested, mostly in low and middle-income countries in Asia and Africa.

The analysis indicated that China and India together were responsible for over half of the total global attributable deaths.

The study also suggested that increasing exposure and a growing and aging population have meant that India now rivals China for among the highest air pollution health burdens in the world, with both countries facing some 1.1 million early deaths from outdoor air pollution in 2016.

Data for the report was compiled using monitoring data available from the World Health Organization Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database and using satellite data for countries where there is little or no monitoring data available. The Global Burden of Disease analysis was conducted in 2017 using data in five-year intervals from 1990 to 2016, the most recent year for which the necessary data were available.

Dan Greenbaum, President of HEI, added: “The Global Burden of Disease leads a growing worldwide consensus — among the WHO, World Bank, International Energy Agency and others — that air pollution poses a major global public health challenge. Nowhere is that risk more evident than in the developing world, where a third of the world’s population faces a double burden of indoor and outdoor air pollution,” he added.

Related Links
HEI – State of Global Air 2018


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