Air pollution causing premature death

Jonathan Lynam

Air pollution is the cause of over 8 million premature deaths worldwide according to a new study published by journal Cardiovascular Research.

Failure among cardiologists to pay attention to the rising air pollution levels means that we could be facing an “air pollution pandemic” according to the study’s co-lead researcher, Prof Thomas Münzel, of the University Medical Centre Mainz.

The study found that global air pollution had shortened life expectancy by an average of three years or 8.8 million premature deaths a year in 2015, according to the study. In comparison, tobacco smoking shortens life expectancy by an average of 2.2 years while HIV/AIDS shortens it by 0.7 years.

It was previously believed that the global premature mortality rate due to air pollution was around 4.5 million per year, but following the latest calculations, poor air quality is now one of the most serious health risks ahead of smoking tobacco which the World Health Organisation estimates to be the cause of around 7.2 million premature deaths per year.

According to the report, the average life expectancy in Ireland has declined by 1.07 years due to air pollution levels in 2015.

The report found that East Asia had the highest percentage of mortality from air pollution with 35 per cent followed by South Asia on 32 per cent, Africa on 11 per cent and Europe at 9 per cent.

The report comes after the Environmental Protection Agency urged the government to speed up plans to implement the transport options outlined in their Climate Action Strategy after the release of their Air Quality in Ireland 2018 report last September. The report showed that although Ireland had met EU standards for air quality it had not met the World Health Organisations guidelines.

At the launch of the report Dr Micheál Lehane, Director of the EPA’s Office of Radiation Protection & Environmental Monitoring, said “We all expect that the air we breathe is clean, but we cannot take this for granted. Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health, so it is now time to tackle the two key issues that impact negatively on air quality in Ireland – transport emissions in large urban areas and emissions from burning of solid fuels. “

According to the latest figures released in 2019 by the EPA, there are 1,180 premature deaths in Ireland per year due to poor air quality.

A map of Ireland’s air quality index can be found at

Jonathan Lynam

Image Credit: PxFuel