Every year, air pollution causes nearly 9 million deathsworldwide and almost  800 thousand in Europe alone. These are the data just presented by an international group of researchers, which shows an estimate of the deaths due to pollution, which is about double compared to some previous assessments. 

The results are published in the European Heart Journal, the journal of the European Society of Cardiology. This is what these deaths are due to and how the causes are shared.

death pollution
Image: European Heart Journal

Of these deaths, almost 50% is due to cardiovascular problems. Among these, 40% is caused by heart attacks and 8% by stroke. Another 20% of deaths are related to respiratory diseases, particularly the lung (lung cancer, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). And yet, a slice of 32% is linked to other non-communicable diseases. “The connection between pollution and cardiovascular diseases, as well as respiratory diseases is well established,” explains Thomas Münzel, co-author of the study and professor of the cardiology department of the University Medical Center in Mainz, Germany. “Pollution causes damage to blood vessels through oxidative stress, which then leads to an increase in blood pressure , diabetes , stroke , heart attack and heart failure.”

In Europe there are 790 thousand deaths a year due to air pollution. At the global level there is talk of 8.8 million cases, while some previous estimates indicated a figure of 4.5 million, almost half of the current one. Recently the Lancet  also  indicates very high numbers, equal to 9 million deaths globally due to pollution (not just air) in 2015. 

air-air-pollution-chimneyTo provide a comparison, air pollution causes more deaths than tobacco smoke, which is responsible for 7.2 million deaths worldwide each year. Against these local and global estimates, the authors draw the attention of national and international authorities to urgent action to improve air quality and reduce air pollution levels so that they comply with the maximum threshold indicated by the World Health Organisation.

“Many other countries, such as Canada, the United States and Australia use the WHO guidelines,” concludes Münzel , “while the European Union is far behind this issue. Instead, new tests can lead to a further lowering [of the air pollution threshold] in the near future”.