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Air pollution causes millions of deaths each year: Why do we let it happen?

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2013-07-13 11:38

Air pollution that is implicated for a number of health issues including cardiovascular disease, stroke and respiratory ailments is found in a new study to kill more than 2 million people annually. The question is why do we let it happen?

The finding, published in the Journal of Environmental Health, highlights the need for community and individual actions to protect human health that we should all take seriously.

Smog that comes from the ozone layer contributes to premature death from inhalation of fine particulate matter resulting in inflammation – the root cause of disease.

Researchers estimated mortality linked to air pollution using a mathematical model that calculated 470,000 people die each year from ozone produced by humans as the result of industrialization.

Lead study coauthor Jason West, an assistant professor of environmental science at the University of North Carolina said in a press release: "Many of these deaths are estimated to occur in East Asia and South Asia, where population is high and air pollution is severe."

The type of air pollution that is killing us is low in the ozone layer unlike the type high in the atmosphere from climate change. West explains air pollution that leads to premature death is not the result of global warming.

Fine particulate matter that is smaller than 2.5 microns in width, known as PM 2.5, is linked to lung cancer and respiratory diseases including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. The study authors estimate 2.1 million deaths have been caused by PM 2.5.

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The study authors say outdoor air pollution is one of the most important risk factors impacting human health. Taking action to reduce smog around the world would extend lifespan for some, West said.

Understanding that air pollution kills should make us to want to take action, yet there remains a high level of complacency.

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