Mortalities due to impacts of Fossil fuel combustion aren’t new for scientists and a study published in Environmental Research suggests that the global death toll has been risen to twice that of previously estimated. The burning of fossil fuels was responsible for almost 8.7 million deaths worldwide in 2018. That’s roughly the same number of people living in London or New York City.
But many people don’t appreciate air pollution as an ‘invisible killer’. The air that we breathe in significantly affects our health, and particularly the health of children and the older population. This impact is worse in the urban areas of the world. The major reason for mortality due to air pollution is due to diseases like stroke, lung carcinoma, respiratory tract infections, attributed to the accumulation of tiny particles, less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) across in the atmosphere.
A recent study that combines chemical transport models with data on emissions and particles estimates over a million deaths around the world could have been avoided in 2017 by eliminating fossil fuel combustion. They also estimated that nearly 20% of the global PM2.5 death/disease burden could be reduced only by absolute elimination of coal and oil/natural gas combustion in China and India alone, as they are the biggest contributor to the global death burden of PM2.5 related mortalities.
It is high time for us to remind our self, the benefits that such transition can have on the environment and human health. The health benefits attributed to the reduction in fossil fuel combustion are alone so significant to help us reconsider our choices.
What can cause PM2.5 pollution? It can be emitted from home heating, cookstoves, dust storms, fires, waste, international shipping, and most of all, due to the burning of fossil fuels. It is the top environmental risk factor for global human health. And to make matter worse in this pandemic, air pollution is increasing the risk of COVID-19 related deaths, now we know where we need to clean up our act.
Let us have a look at the various sources globally on the health impacts of PM2.5 air pollution. The study conducted by Erin E. McDuffie and the team sought to identify all the deaths related to PM2.5 in the year 2017, including 21 regions, and 204 countries. They didn’t stop here and further identified sources of PM2.5 which were responsible for these mortalities and to what extent.
They estimated presented that in the year 2017, some 90% of the global population was suffering from higher levels of PM2.5 than advised by WHO, which were mainly a result of fossil fuel combustion, chiefly burning of coal, oil, and natural gas, which causes lost lives in China and India. These mortalities were ten folds greater than those that occurred in the year 2012.
It is never too late for us to realize the impact of fossil fuel-related health hazards and devise an alternative to traditional energy sources. And since the biggest contributors of such pollution have been identified so if these regions would cut down fossil fuel usage, the health risks could be pointedly limited.