-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
FRIDAY, July 12 (HealthDay News) -- Air pollution claims more
than 2 million lives worldwide every year, according to a new
And roughly 470,000 deaths occur each year due to increases in
ozone caused by humans, the study authors said.
On the other hand, climate change only has a minimal effect on
air pollution and rising death rates, the authors concluded.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina estimated that
about 2.1 million people die as a result of a surge in fine
particulate matter air pollution. These tiny air particles can
penetrate deep into the lungs and cause cancer and other
"Our estimates make outdoor air pollution among the most important environmental risk factors for health," study co-author Jason West, of the University of North Carolina, said in a journal news release. "Many of these deaths are estimated to occur in East Asia and South Asia, where population is high and air pollution is severe."
In conducting the study, the researchers simulated the
concentrations of ozone and fine particulate matter air pollution
in 1850, when the industrial era began, and in the year 2000. The
study used 14 different climate models to simulate levels of ozone
and another six to simulate fine particulate matter caused by
"We have also found that there is significant uncertainty based on the spread among different atmospheric models," West said. "This would caution against using a single model in the future, as some studies have done."
The researchers also examined previous epidemiological studies
to determine how concentrations of air pollution relate to death
rates around the world.
The study, published July 12 in the journal
Environmental Research Letters, showed that although climate
changes may worsen the effects of air pollution, they do not
significantly increase death rates. Climate changes have resulted
in 1,500 deaths due to ozone and 2,200 deaths resulting from fine
particulate matter air pollution every year.
Climate change can affect air pollution in many ways, the
researchers said. For example, rainfall can determine when
pollutants accumulate. Rising temperatures can increase the
emissions of organic compounds from trees, which react in the
atmosphere and form ozone and fine particulate matter.
"Very few studies have attempted to estimate the effects of past climate change on air quality and health," West said. "We found that the effects of past climate change are likely to be a very small component of the overall effect of air pollution."
Visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to learn more
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