According to the State of Global Air (SOGA) 2019 study published on Wednesday, air pollution contributed to nearly one in every 10 deaths in 2017. These startling figures make air pollution a bigger killer than malaria and road accidents and making it comparable to smoking cigarettes.
Children across the world are affected by breathing in toxic air. Children in South Asia, will have their lives cut by 30 months. In sub-Saharan Africa life expectancy is reduced by 24 months.
These figures are mainly due to a combination of outdoor air pollution caused by traffic and indoor air pollution caused by cooking fires. Children in East Asia will have their lives shortened by 23 months.
Air pollution has ongoing effects
Children in the developed world are not immune to the impact of polluted air, though their forecast is slightly better with figures suggesting their life expectancy is reduced by about 5 months.
Children who are exposed to air pollution from a young age are likely to suffer from ongoing lung problems. Older generations can't escape either.
According to the data from the report nearly nine in 10 deaths attributable to air pollution were in the over-50s.
Air pollution can cause early death in a number of ways says the report which is recognized as being the most systematic annual study of the health effects of global air pollution.
For example, it accounts for 41% of global deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 20% from type 2 diabetes, 19% from lung cancer, 16% from ischaemic heart disease, and 11% of deaths from stroke.
China turns figures around
Some governments have started to take action against the rise of pollution. China, in particular, has been able to beat the trend of rising pollution. In 2013 China set ambitious targets to reduce air pollution through a reduction in the reliance on coal and to make the industry cleaner.
They also set limitations on the number of cars allowed into some cities while heavily investing in green energy. Air pollution is on the rise across the globe with estimates that 95% of the world's population is exposed to unhealthy air. Recent studies have linked it to an even wider range of health conditions outside of those connected to lung issue.
The gap between countries grows
Research shows a correlation between exposure to air pollution and dementia and even miscarriage.
The gap between the least polluted countries and the most is also widening. Countries with the lowest levels include the US, Norway, Canada, Sweden, and New Zealand, though the Maldives, Brunei, and Estonia also scored well on the measure.
Dr. Maria Neira, the World Health Organisation director with responsibility for air pollution, says the issue is a global public health emergency.