Air Pollution is the Leading Avoidable Cause of Death Worldwide

Air pollution has emerged as a primary, yet preventable cause of death globally. Surpassing the annual death toll from tobacco consumption, air pollution is now accountable for an estimated 8 million premature deaths per year.

Data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicates that an alarming 91% of people are inhaling air with dangerous levels of pollutants. The deleterious impact of both outdoor and indoor air pollution results in an elevated mortality rate due to conditions such as stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and acute respiratory infections.

Outdoor Air Pollution 

WHO statistics highlight that outdoor air pollution is responsible for a significant proportion of deaths and disease. These include:

  • 29% of all deaths and disease from lung cancer
  • 17% of all deaths and disease from acute lower respiratory infection
  • 24% of all deaths from stroke
  • 25% of all deaths and disease from ischaemic heart disease
  • 43% of all deaths and disease from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Health-threatening pollutants predominantly consist of particulate matter (PM), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and sulphur dioxide (SO2). The health risks related to particulate matter less than 10 and 2.5 microns in diameter (PM10 and PM2.5) are particularly well-validated. PM2.5, recognized as the deadliest form of air pollution, can infiltrate the lungs and bloodstream, causing cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and respiratory damage. In 2013, it was officially classified as a cause of lung cancer.

The health ramifications of PM2.5 exposure are extensive. Short-term effects comprise eye, nose, and throat irritation, coughing, sneezing, and shortness of breath. Long-term exposure can lead to enduring respiratory problems such as asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, and cancer. Additionally, exposure during pregnancy is associated with low birth weight, pre-term birth, and small gestational age births.

Everyone is susceptible to the effects of PM2.5; however, individuals with respiratory and heart conditions, children, and the elderly are most vulnerable.


Indoor Air Pollution 

While outdoor air pollution is a major concern, indoor air pollution is gaining recognition as a lethal threat, largely due to the rise in energy-efficient, airtight buildings.

Most individuals spend around 90% of their time indoors, and for children, this can be even higher. Considering children breathe at a faster rate and have developing lungs, the intake of harmful particulates is considerably magnified.

Sources of indoor pollution range from cooking, smoking, malfunctioning boilers, gas cookers, and heaters, to volatile chemicals from new furniture, air fresheners, and household cleaning products. Even common kitchen appliances like frying pans, ovens, and toasters can emit dangerous particulates. A 2019 study shockingly discovered that cooking a roast dinner could generate air pollution equivalent to the smoggiest cities in the world.


BREATHE air quality monitors are designed to alert you when ventilation is required to dilute poor air quality within your living or working space.

Reducing Your Exposure 

Though total avoidance of air pollution is impossible, awareness of its constituents can enable you to reduce exposure and protect your health and that of your family.

Practical measures to minimize exposure include:

  • Limiting prolonged outdoor activities during periods of high pollution.
  • Incorporating an air purifier at home.
  • Opting for lower traffic routes for walks, runs, or cycling.
  • For drivers, choosing less congested routes as exhaust fumes can accumulate inside the car. Surprisingly, walking along a traffic-heavy road generally subjects you to less pollution than driving on one.
  • Avoidance of areas with high combustion sources during physical activities.
  • Limiting indoor sources of particles such as wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, and candles.

Through these measures, we can contribute to mitigating the harmful effects of air pollution on our health.

Learn how air pollution slips unnoticed past our body's defences causing deaths from heart attack, strokes, lung disease and cancer.

Source - World Health Organisation