According to a recent study, fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) caused an astounding 135 million premature deaths globally between 1980 and 2020. 

Key Findings of the Study

  • The study demonstrated how climate variability events, such as the North Atlantic Oscillation, Indian Ocean Dipole, and El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) worsened the PM2.5 pollution levels, leading to a 14% rise in premature deaths. 
  • The study found that these three weather phenomena collectively caused around 7,000 additional premature deaths annually, with the Indian Ocean Dipole having the largest impact on the number of deaths, followed by the North Atlantic Oscillation and then El Nino. 

Between 1980 and 2020, the study found the following:

  • Approximately one-third of premature deaths were linked to stroke (33.3%), 
  • Another third to ischemic heart disease (32.7%), Ischemia is a condition in which blood flow (and thus oxygen) is restricted or reduced in a part of the body.
  • Ischemia is a condition in which blood flow (and thus oxygen) is restricted or reduced in a part of the body.
    With the rest of the premature deaths attributed to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lower respiratory infections, and lung cancer.

The research also found a notable variation in the distribution of air pollution-related deaths across different regions. 

  • Asia emerged as the most affected region, with approximately 98.1 million premature deaths linked to PM2.5 pollution.
    China and India were the primary contributors, with 49 million and 26.1 million premature deaths respectively. 
  • Premature deaths, as defined in the paper, occur earlier than expected based on average life expectancy.
    These deaths often result from illnesses that could have been prevented or treated but are exacerbated by environmental factors such as air pollution.

What is Particulate matter (PM2.5)? 

  • PM2.5, or fine particulate matter, are tiny particles having a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or smaller. 
  • They originate from vehicle emissions, industrial activities, wildfires, and dust storms. 
  • Due to their small size, PM2.5 particles can easily enter the air we breathe and penetrate deep into the lungs, causing various health issues, particularly for vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, and individuals with respiratory conditions.

Methodology Adopted in the Study

  • Researchers from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore published this study in the peer-reviewed journal Environment International. 
  • They analyzed 40 years of data to understand how climate patterns impact air quality globally. 
  • Using satellite data from NASA, they looked at PM2.5 levels in the atmosphere. 
  • Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in the USThey also used data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in the US to study diseases linked to pollution like respiratory infections, lung cancer, stroke, and heart disease.

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