Air pollution causes 3 million people a year to die prematurely

Thursday, 17 September, 2015

Outdoor air pollution is a health hazard (as we all know). The impact of air pollution has now been quantified in a study published today in Nature. The authors estimate air pollution causes 3.3 million people a year globally to die earlier than they would have. Most deaths are in Asia. Ill health (not resulting in death) adds immensely to the burden of disease due to air pollution.

Other authors in the Conversation estimated that in Australia 1,600 people die prematurely as a result of air pollution. Most of these are in the large cities. See

I was recently in Southeast Asia and was shocked by the level of pollution in their major cities. Kuala Lumpur and Jakata are covered in a haze said to be due to burning forests in Sulawesi. Residents commonly wear surgical masks in the street in an attempt to protect themselves. In 2013 my Travel Bug column in Medical Observer dealt with the issue of air pollution and travellers.

Lelieveld J, Evans JS, Fnais M, Giannadaki D, Pozzer A. The contribution of outdoor air pollution sources to premature mortality on a global scale. Nature 2015;525:367–371.
Speare R. Air pollution: should I go? Travel Bug, Medical Observer, Marsh 2013. Available at

Posted by Rick Speare