Air pollution is killing 3.3 million people a year worldwide, according to a new study published recently in the journal Nature. The study also projects that if trends don’t change, the yearly death total will double by 2050. The author of the study claims that about three quarters of these deaths occur due to strokes and heart attacks. I would think blaming air pollution for stroke and heart attack deaths would be problematic at best, given the many other potential factors involved, including genetics, diet and exercise, or exposure to studies published in the journal Nature.
And what about smoking? How does one accurately determine whether someone died from “ambient air pollution” (that the study says is responsible for 6 percent of all global deaths annually) or smoking cigarettes? Or, in the interests of political correctness, do smoker’s deaths get counted twice?
Jos Lelieveld of Germany’s Max (Walk the) Planck Institute for Chemistry, the study’s author, avers that air pollution kills more people than HIV and malaria combined. China experiences the most yearly air pollution fatalities (duh!), nearly 1.4 million, followed by India with 645,000 and Pakistan with 110,000. The United States, vast exploiter of the Earth’s resources and energy hog that she is, came in a distant seventh.(“We’ll get ‘em next year!”).
The most surprising finding of the study was that farming plays a huge role in these air pollution fatalities. Apparently, ammonia from fertilizer and animal waste combines with sulfates and nitrates from power plants and automobile exhaust to form soot particles that are the real killers. In “fact,” the study claims that in the U.S. northeast, and all of Europe, Russia, Japan and South Korea, agriculture is the number 1 cause of air pollution deaths, and is the number 2 cause globally.
There you have it: city or country, we’re equally screwed.
But look on the bright side. If we just stop producing energy- and food- we’ve got a chance!