Intended for healthcare professionals


Fossil fuel air pollution blamed for 1 in 5 deaths worldwide

BMJ 2021; 372 doi: (Published 10 February 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;372:n406
  1. Ingrid Torjesen
  1. London

Fossil fuel air pollution is responsible for around one in five deaths, which is more than double the number previously thought, a study has found.

The researchers estimated that 8.7 million people worldwide died in 2018 as a result of breathing in air containing particles from burning fuels like coal, petrol, and diesel, which aggravate respiratory conditions like asthma and can lead to lung cancer, coronary heart disease, strokes, and early death. The highest rates of death linked to fossil fuel related air pollution were found in South East Asia, Europe, and eastern North America. The study was published online in the journal Environmental Research.1

Previous estimates from the Global Burden of Disease Study put the total number of deaths each year from all outdoor airborne particulate matter (not just fossil fuel emissions, but including dust …

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