Aggressive mitigation needed to reduce global mortality from PM2.5 air pollution
A new study published by the Environmental Science and Technology journal on the effect of PM2.5 (particulate matter <2.5μm in diameter) revealed that millions of lives could be saved each year by adopting World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines on emissions.
By using high resolution PM2.5 concentration data (10km, global-coverage) and epidemiological data from the Global Burden of Diseases (used by WHO to measure years of life lost due to premature mortality and years of life lost due to time lived in states of less than full health), researchers from two US universities and public health institutes and a Canadian university have assessed how regional and global emission reduction would reduce mortality from PM2.5.
Different standards and emission targets on PM2.5 have been adopted around the world (e.g.: 12μg.m-3 in US, 25μg.m-3 in the UK, 35μg.m-3 in China), but the WHO currently recommends a lower maximum average exposure of 10μg.m-3.
The results of the study indicate that, globally, achieving the PM2.5 air quality guideline from the WHO would avert 2.1 million deaths per year, with 70% of the total averted mortality occurring in India and China, the most affected areas.
As for other air pollutants, the distribution of PM2.5 pollution is geo-specific and more significantly affects cities and industrial regions. While PM2.5 is currently not such a concern in the UK compared to PM10 (particulate matter <10μm in diameter), the study highlighted the scale of PM2.5 pollution in some parts of Asia, where PM2.5 mortality density in rural areas was comparable to urban levels in Europe and North America.
The study suggests that aggressive mitigation policies need to be put in place globally in order to achieve the recommended reductions, which although costly, would also meet efforts to reduce climate change.