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NASA has estimated how many people will die from air pollution

Danish scientist Ulas Im, along with colleagues from NASA’s Godard Institute for Space Studies, predicted how small solid particles released into the air will affect people’s health in the future. They concluded that even in the best-case scenario, up to 4 million people worldwide would die from diseases associated with them.

Examining the effect of air pollution on health

Ulas Im of Aarhus University in Denmark, along with colleagues at NASA, recently published an estimate of how often people will become ill in the future due to particulate air pollution. And the results of their research have been disappointing.

Air pollution from industry and transport is a global problem, the consequences of which we have not yet fully evaluated. It is known that the greatest danger to human health is solid particles, only a few microns or even tens of nanometers in size.

Due to their size, they easily penetrate human lungs and become stuck on mesh surfaces. This can lead to worsening of breathing and then cause cancer and a host of other serious illnesses. For example, if a person lives near a main road, their lifetime risk of contracting respiratory illness increases by 20 percent.

Where are the world’s most dangerous emissions

Aarhus University has one of the world’s largest databases on how air pollution affects human health. NASA, on the other hand, has the most data on how pollution has changed across the planet over the past decades and what will happen in the future.

Together, Im and NASA have developed a global model of air pollution that includes climate change, measures to reduce particulate emissions, and changes in population composition. The model depicts a bleak future, especially for Asian countries. The situation with regard to emissions in Europe is not so tense.

For example, in the same Denmark, solid particulate emissions have decreased by 48 percent since 1990. But the situation for China is very bad. The country is notorious for not meeting worldwide accepted environmental standards and often suffers from it.

In fact, the Chinese are doing a lot to reduce the damage done to the environment. However, these changes are still happening very slowly. Im and his colleagues emphasize that the population of the Celestial Empire is aging and therefore becoming more vulnerable to diseases.

Three scenarios for the world

Based on all the data collected, the researchers created three scenarios for how morbidity and death rates from particulate air pollution will change in the coming years.

In all three, emissions are decreasing, which corresponds to modern trends. But in the first it happens at the same rate as now. In the second, this speed is slightly higher, and in the third – a little lower.

However, all three options turned out to be bad. In any case, in the future, many people in the world will have respiratory problems due to air pollution as much as the population of all countries. Even in the best-case scenario, as many as 4 million people are expected to die from the disease.

“Even if we electrify cars, replace coal and gas-fired power plants with wind turbines and solar power, and reduce aviation, we cannot undo the damage that has already been done to our lungs,” Im says. — However, when we limit our emissions, the particles disappear quickly from the air. It’s not the same as carbon dioxide that stays in the atmosphere for hundreds of years.”

At the same time, the researchers note that their model did not account for absolutely all pollution. All in all, it’s not worth thinking that you’ll save your lungs from them after you go to the countryside. Humanity produces large amounts of ozone. Of course it protects us from radiation, but only when at high altitude.

It is a powerful poison near the surface of the earth. And if it decomposes rapidly in cities under the influence of factors that we usually consider harmful, then it can easily accumulate in rural areas.

Source: Port Altele

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