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Millions die from pollution

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More than two million people die every year because of foul and polluted air, according to a United States study.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina have released estimates that up to 3.5 million people die annually from the effects of air pollution, mostly ozone and fine particulate matter.

Study co-author Dr Jason West told United Press International said the study showed that “outdoor air pollution [is] among the most important environmental risk factors for health”.

“Many of these deaths are estimated to occur in East Asia and South Asia, where population is high and pollution is severe.”

Diplomatic tensions between Singapore and Indonesia escalated earlier this month when a dense cloud of smoke from burning Sumatran peat land – being cleared for palm oil plantations – smothered the island nation in a chocking blanket of smog.

And early this year much of Beijing was brought to a virtual standstill when levels of air pollution reached extreme levels, underlining concerns that the Chinese and other Asian people are paying a heavy price in health for the rapid economic development of their countries.

The University of North Carolina researchers modelled concentrations from an ensemble of chemistry–climate models to estimate the global burden of outdoor air pollution on present-day premature human mortality.

“Using simulated concentrations for 2000 and 1850 and concentration–response functions (CRFs), we estimate that, at present, 470,000 premature respiratory deaths are associated globally and annually with anthropogenic ozone, and 2.1 million (and up to 3 million) deaths with anthropogenic [fine particulate matter-related cardiopulmonary diseases (93 per cent) and lung cancer (7 per cent),” the study said.

The AMA has called for tighter regulation and monitoring of air pollution, particularly fine particulate matter, in Australia.

Adrian Rollins