In new estimates released Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported about 7 million people died as a result of air pollution exposure in 2012.
This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk as 1 in every 8 deaths is linked to it.
In particular, the new research reveals a stronger connection between both indoor and outdoor air pollution exposure and cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes and heart disease, as well as cancer. The report also found air pollution plays a role in the development of respiratory diseases, including acute respiratory infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.
The new estimates used improved measurements and technology, enabling scientists to make a more detailed analysis of health risks from a wider demographic spread that now includes both urban and rural areas.
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Included in the assessment is a breakdown of deaths attributed to specific diseases, which shows the vast majority of air pollution deaths are tied to cardiovascular diseases.
Indoor Air Pollution-caused deaths—Breakdown by Disease:
- 34 percent: Stroke
- 26 percent: Ischaemic heart disease
- 22 percent: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- 12 percent: Acute lower respiratory infections in children
- 6 percent: Lung cancer