Ambient Air Pollution Causes Decreased Life Expectancy

Loss of life expectancy from all ambient air pollution found to be 2.9 years, exceeding that of tobacco smoking

LA skyline in smog

TUESDAY, March 3, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Ambient air pollution is a leading cause of excess mortality and loss of life expectancy (LLE), according to a study published online March 3 in Cardiovascular Research.

Jos Lelieveld, Ph.D., from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany, and colleagues calculated worldwide exposure to fine particulate matter and ozone pollution using a data-informed atmospheric model, which was combined with the novel Global Exposure Mortality Model to estimate disease-specific excess mortality and LLE. The effects of different pollution sources were investigated using this model.

The researchers found that from all ambient air pollution, global excess mortality was estimated at 8.8 million/year, with an LLE of 2.9 years, which is a factor of two higher than previously estimated and exceeds that of tobacco smoking. In East Asia and Europe, the global mean mortality rate of about 120 per 100,000 people/year was exceeded (196 and 133 per 100,000/year, respectively). Global mean life expectancy would increase by 1.1 and 1.7 years, respectively, with removal of fossil fuel emissions alone and removal of all potentially controllable anthropogenic emissions.

"Since the impact of air pollution on public health overall is much larger than expected, and is a worldwide phenomenon, we believe our results show there is an 'air pollution pandemic,'" a coauthor said in a statement. "Both air pollution and smoking are preventable, but over the past decades much less attention has been paid to air pollution than to smoking, especially among cardiologists."

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