49ºF

Air pollution linked to early death

photo
(CNN)

CLEVELAND, Ohio – New research published in the journal Nature suggests outdoor air pollution leads to over 3 million premature deaths each year around the world – and authors predict that could double by 2050 if air quality controls aren't put in place.

The study says outdoor air pollutants, like ozone and tiny particles known as fine particulate matter, are associated with serious chronic disease – especially heart and lung problems.

Experts believe particles in the air get into the body and cause inflammation which impacts health.

"People who otherwise wouldn't have died younger are dying younger because of particle matter pollution in the air," says Sumita Khatri, MD, Director of Cleveland Clinic's Asthma Center.

A Global Problem

Results from the study show that emissions from traffic and power plants were found to play a role in air quality here in the United States.

In the Eastern United States, Europe, Russia and East Asia, agricultural emissions, like fertilizers, are important when it comes to air pollution.

Residential heating and cooking emissions, prevalent in India and China, have the largest impact on premature death worldwide.

"The fact that what we're doing in our own homes is the largest pollutant in the world? It's eye opening and mind boggling," says Dr. Khatri.

Individual Effort Counts

If you're looking for ways to improve air quality, Dr. Khatri says there are little things you can do every day. For example,

  • Don't burn trash or leaves
  • Carpool to reduce traffic-related pollution
  • Use more clean energy for transportation

"If we change just a little bit at a time and we're thoughtful, that will have exponential effect," says Dr. Khatri.