A recent post (Air Pollution Can Kill You) discussed recent research that found that air pollution is linked to an overall increase in death rates, especially cardiovascular disease. But how many deaths each year are linked to air pollution? Recent research suggests that outdoor air pollution, mostly by fine particulate matter with a diameter smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5), leads to 3.3 million premature deaths per year worldwide, predominantly in Asia. The number one cause worldwide is residential energy use such as heating and cooking, (India ,China, and the developing world).
But surprisingly agriculture or farming is number 2 worldwide. How can that be? Well, farms produce ammonia from fertilizer and animal waste. That ammonia then combines with sulfates from coal-fired power plants and nitrates from vehicle exhaust to form the soot particles that are the big air pollution killers. The United States had about 54,905 deaths in 2010 from soot and smog. Power plants and traffic (vehicle emissions) are big sources of the air pollution linked to deaths in the USA. From Medical Xpress:
Outdoor air pollution leads to more than 3 million premature deaths per year, primarily in Asia, according to a letter published online Sept. 16 in Nature.
Johannes Lelieveld, Ph.D., from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany, and colleagues used a global atmospheric chemistry model to investigate the link between premature mortality and seven emission source categories in urban and rural environments. The researchers found that outdoor air pollution, mostly by fine particulate matter with a diameter smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5), leads to 3.3 million premature deaths per year worldwide, predominantly in Asia. The largest impact on premature mortality globally comes from residential energy use such as heating and cooking, prevalent in India and China. In the United States, emissions from traffic and power generation are important. Agricultural emissions make the largest relative contribution to PM2.5 in the eastern United States, Europe, Russia, and East Asia, with the estimate of overall health impact depending on assumptions regarding particle toxicity.