LifestyleEven "safe" air pollution levels could cause 1.5 million more deaths, McGill study warns

Even "safe" air pollution levels could cause 1.5 million more deaths, McGill study warns

Smog is harmful to health.
Smog is harmful to health.
Images source: © Canva | Canva
12:09 PM EST, December 28, 2023

It has been known for years that polluted air detrimentally impacts our health. Studies confirm that it triggers the onset of lung cancer even in non-smokers and causes changes in children's brains.

The most recent study, executed in Canada - a country renowned for having some of the lowest PM2.5 particulate pollution levels in the world - delivers alarming insights. The findings suggest that even marginal concentrations of these polluters detrimentally affect our health.

Mildly polluted air is harmful to our health

Scholars from McGill University performed an extensive air quality study in Canada. The results, published in the journal "Science Advances", are based on an analysis of the air condition data spanning over the past 25 years, during which the health of Canada's residents was also monitored.

Canada, with its relatively low levels of air pollution, is considered an exemplary location for such research. Regrettably, the findings are quite disheartening. It was concluded that even minor amounts of PM2.5 particles present in the air pose a risk to our health.

An increase in deaths caused by air pollution

According to the researchers, current WHO data that attributes over 4.2 million global deaths per year to air pollution are underestimated. It's necessary to add about 1.5 million additional deaths to this figure annually.

This is merely the beginning of investigations into air quality. Scientists aim to determine which particles are more dangerous and how their composition negatively influences our health. On a positive note, the WHO and European Union are taking active measures to combat smog.

The World Health Organization has tightened air pollution standards, reducing the acceptable PM2.5 dust standard by 40% - from 25 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter to 15 micrograms per cubic meter. The EU also intends to implement such changes to the standards and plans to empower citizens to sue countries that fail to comply. As Professor Weichenthal highlights, such modifications could have more expansive implications for our health than assumed.

"Our research reveals that global health benefits derived from implementing new WHO guidelines will likely be much larger than perceived," adds Professor Weichenthal.

Source: PAP

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