A million early deaths worldwide attributable to ozone pollution, a research study finds

Ozone is an invisible, odorless gas that damages lungs. That much was known already.

Now, thanks to a study conducted by researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) – an independent, international research institute – more is now known regarding the connection between long-term exposure to ozone and premature death from such.

Via its Aug. 28, 2017 “One million premature deaths linked to ozone air pollution: New research links long-term exposure to ozone air pollution with one million premature deaths per year due to respiratory diseases, which is more than double previous estimatespress release the SEI goes into far greater detail.

Study’s relevance and importance

The SEI in the release in no uncertain terms relates: “A new article published today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives quantifies the global impact of long-term ozone exposure on respiratory mortality. It finds that in 2010, long-term outdoor exposure to ozone air pollution contributed to about 1 million premature respiratory deaths globally – or approximately one in five of all respiratory deaths. This is substantially larger (125%) than previous estimates of the global health impacts of ozone (~0.4 million premature respiratory deaths).

“‘This study highlights that exposure to ozone may make a substantially greater contribution to the global burden of disease than previously thought,’ said Chris Malley, lead author of the study and researcher at Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York.

“Findings from this study were based on results from a recent US analysis of the association of long-term ozone exposure and respiratory mortality in 670,000 adults, with a substantially larger number of included study participants and observed deaths than a previous estimate published seven years earlier, on which previous global ozone health impacts calculations have been based.”

And, the ozone pollution problem is widespread. (Note: the word ozone is commonly and frequently substituted with the word smog). And, just how large a problem is this?

Explains the SEI: “The largest contribution to global ozone-attributable respiratory deaths was from Asia, which accounted for about 79% of the total one million global estimated deaths. India alone accounted for about 400,000, and China for about another 270,000. Africa, Europe and North America each had between 50,000 and 60,000 ozone-attributable deaths, with fewer in Latin America and Oceana.”

But, it should likewise be noted:

“‘There is a degree of uncertainty in these estimates because the concentration-response function we used is based on analysis from the United States,’ Malley said. ‘We don’t know whether the relationship is the same in other regions, such as in India and China, where the prevalence of other risk factors for respiratory diseases varies considerably. We also estimated people’s ozone exposure using a global atmospheric chemistry transport model, which means that we could not account for differences in ozone exposure at small geographic scales.’”

Nevertheless, the study sheds some rather important light on ozone air pollution and its contribution to the global disease burden that, before this study was undertaken and findings presented, may have been less well understood.

Study basis

“The analysis grew out of SEI’s Initiative on Low Emission Development Pathways, which includes the development of a ‘benefits calculator’ to help policy-makers and planners assess the potential benefits of undertaking measures that reduce air pollution.

“SEI’s Initiative on Low Emission Development Pathways is contributing to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC), where SEI is working with [United Nations Environment Programme] and other organisations to support more than 20 developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America in developing plans to reduce emissions leading to formation of ground-level ozone,” SEI went on to state in the release.

Collective engagement needed

“‘It is important to realize that action needs to be taken on all the major sources,’ [SEI Policy Director Johan C.I.] Kuylenstierna added. ‘The long-range transport of ozone means that to reduce ozone, action is needed on local, national, regional and global scales. That means that regional cooperation often is needed to solve the problem.’”

Image above: U.S. National Institutes of Health: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

2 thoughts on “A million early deaths worldwide attributable to ozone pollution, a research study finds

    • In the post: “eMission control – Focus: The past, present and future” (link here: https://alankandel.scienceblog.com/2012/12/28/emission-control-focus-the-past-present-and-future), I wrote:

      “In a Dec. 20, 2012 Time magazine article titled: ‘Unbreathable: Air Pollution Becomes a Major Global Killer,’ [http://science.time.com/2012/12/20/unbreathable-air-pollution-becomes-a-major-global-killer] author Bryan Walsh wrote:

      “’According to a new analysis published in the Lancet, more than 3.2 million people suffered premature deaths from air pollution in 2010, the largest number on record. That’s up from 800,000 in 2000. And it’s a regional problem: 65% of those deaths occurred in Asia, where the air is choked by diesel soot from cars and trucks, as well as the smog from power plants and the dust from endless urban construction. In East Asia and China, 1.2 million people died, as well as another 712,000 in South Asia, including India. For the first time ever, air pollution is on the world’s top-10 list of killers, and it’s moving up the ranks faster than any other factor.’”

      “Walsh noted also, compared to other developed nations, the U.S. has had greater success on the air-pollution-mitigation front than it has in dealing with climatological shift.”

      Walsh also stated: “Fortunately in the U.S. and other developed nations, urban air is for the most part cleaner than it was 30 or 40 years ago, thanks to regulations and new technologies like the catalytic converters that reduce automobile emissions. Governments are also pushing to make air cleaner. … It’s not perfect, but we’ve had much more success dealing with air pollution than climate change.”

      Have we? Walsh’s article was published in the Dec. 20, 2012 Time issue. That’s four-and-three-quarters years ago. Since that time, I’d be curious if the U.S. is backtracking where ozone emissions are concerned. In major regions in California such as the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley air basins, ozone pollution has grown worse.

Leave a Comment