Amid Coronavirus Outbreak Another 'Pandemic' Is Silently Killing Millions Worldwide

Many parts of the world were left surprised when the novel coronavirus rapidly spread from one country to another in less than three months. But researchers warned that many people are unaware of another “pandemic” that has been silently causing more deaths than viruses, war and violence.

The new study, published in Cardiovascular Research, highlights the growing impacts of air pollution on global life expectancy. Researchers found that low air quality could reduce the lifespan of people by an average of nearly three years, ScienceAlert reported.

Previous data from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested that air pollution caused 8.8 million premature deaths in 2015 around the world. The latest study shows that the global population continued to suffer from its health effects in recent years. 

“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’,” Thomas Münzel, an atmospheric chemist at the Max Planck Institute, said in a statement.

For the study, researchers looked into the effects of air pollution on six categories of disease. The team analyzed how people develop respiratory infections, pulmonary disease, lung cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes because of exposure to poor air quality. 

Cardiovascular diseases appeared causing most of the premature deaths from air pollution. Such health problems were also linked to nearly 43 percent of the total loss in life expectancy worldwide.

“Air pollution 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,” Jos Lelieveld, a physicist at the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia, said. 

The study also provides a model that shows the impacts of air pollution on certain regions. East Asia had the highest loss of life expectancy in 2015, while people in North America lost 1.4 years in life expectancy.

Children and older people are more likely to suffer from complications due to exposure to dangerous particles and gases in the atmosphere. The researchers said people aged 60 and beyond covered nearly 75 percent of deaths linked to air pollution, while the majority of fatalities among young people were kids under five. 

Looking at the global population, air pollution killed more people five years ago than all the violence in the world and tobacco. People dying from exposure to poor air quality also outnumbered the deaths caused by diseases. 

“Air pollution exceeds malaria as a global cause of premature death by a factor of 19; it exceeds violence by a factor of 16, HIV/AIDS by a factor of 9, alcohol by a factor of 45 and drug abuse by a factor of 60,” Lelieveld said. 

The researchers called on public health officials and physicians to include chronic air pollution to new guidelines as an important risk factor for heart disease, beside smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure. Reducing man-made emissions to increase average life expectancy by a year may also help prevent more than 5.5 million early deaths each year around the world. 

Air pollution In 2014, study found that air pollution from power plants that used fossil fuels caused nearly 16,000 premature deaths in the U.S. Pixabay