AIR pollution is now a bigger killer than smoking – causing up to 8.8million deaths a year worldwide, a study suggests.
Researchers say sooty particles pumped out by vehicles, factories and power plants are the main cause of dirty air.
Getty Images – Getty A news study shows that air pollution is a bigger killer than smoking
They estimate air pollution caused 64,000 deaths in the UK in 2015, including 17,000 fatal cases of heart and artery disease.
The others included some cases of cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease.
Average life expectancy in the UK was also reduced by 1.5 years among those dying as a result of air pollution, the study found.
But Brits were not as badly affected as some of our European neighbours, including those in Germany, Italy and France.
The study combined computer simulations with new information about population density, disease risk factors, and causes of death.
It revealed air pollution could be causing 8.8million deaths worldwide each year and double the number in Europe than previously thought.
‘SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASES RISK OF PREMATURE DEATH’
The World Health Organisation claims tobacco smoking is responsible for 7.2million deaths a year.
Researchers, from the University Medical Centre Mainz, in Germany, have now called for stricter air pollution controls.
And they say their findings stress the need to move towards cleaner, renewable energy.
Prof Thomas Munzel said: “The link between air pollution and cardiovascular disease, as well as respiratory diseases, is well established.
“It causes damage to the blood vessels through increased oxidative stress, which then leads to increases in blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart attacks and heart failure.”
Prof Metin Avkiran, from the British Heart Foundation, said: “These findings provide further evidence that air pollution significantly increases the risk of premature death from heart and circulatory diseases, and suggest that its impact may be even greater than we previously thought.
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“Air pollution is clearly a huge problem across Europe, where our legal limits are less stringent than those recommended by the World Health Organisation.
“We need to see these international guidelines in UK law in order to drive decisive action to tackle air pollution and protect the nation’s health.”
The findings are published in the European Heart Journal.
Getty – Contributor Smoking kills around 7.2million people a year according to the World Health Organisation
20 Second Story: High pollution levels across UK