In comparison, HIV and malaria kill about 2.8 million people combined.
Of these premature deaths, WHO estimates that some 80% of outdoor air pollution-related premature deaths were due to ischaemic heart disease and strokes, while 14% of deaths were due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or acute lower respiratory infections; and 6% of deaths were due to lung cancer. A 2013 assessment by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that outdoor air pollution is carcinogenic to humans, with the particulate matter component of air pollution most closely associated with increased cancer incidence, especially cancer of the lung. An association also has been observed between outdoor air pollution and increase in cancer of the urinary tract/bladder. A new study in the journal Nature estimates the number of premature deaths could double by 2050.
In addition to outdoor air pollution, indoor smoke is a serious health risk for some 3 billion people who cook and heat their homes with biomass fuels and coal. Some 4.3 million premature deaths were attributable to household air pollution in 2012. Almost all of that burden was in low-middle-income countries as well.
A study of U.S. air quality recently published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (affiliated with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Health and Human Services) concludes,
Long-term exposure to PM2.5 air pollution was associated with an increased risk of total and CVD mortality, providing an independent test of the PM2.5 – mortality relationship in a new large U.S. prospective cohort experiencing lower post-2000 PM2.5 exposure levels.PM2.5 is particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns. CVD is cardiovascular disease.
The principle sources of risk include particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. The outdoor sources of these pollutants include power generation, transportation, agriculture, and natural sources. Indoor pollution comes almost exclusively from cooking and heating the home with biomass fuels and coal.
Once again, we find the claims by the deniers to be invalid. Next time you hear someone making claims about how wonderful coal is and how the poor will suffer the most if we stop burning it, point out how many people will get to live as a result.