New research reveals that 800,000 people die prematurely from air pollution in Europe each year. A previous study also confirms that dirty air kills 8.8 million people per year globally. The study, published in the European Heart Journal, urges Europe to phase out fossil fuels.

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Scientists used three sets of data to reach their conclusions: population density and age, exposure to air pollution and the health impacts of foul air. While the lungs are the initial body part to suffer, once pollutants get in the bloodstream they can lead to strokes and heart disease. These latter consequences account for twice as many air pollution deaths as respiratory diseases. Scientists estimated that air pollution lops off an average of two plus years of life for these 800,000 Europeans. The rate of deaths linked to air pollution is especially high in Europe due to dense population.

Related: Poor air quality found at over 2,000 sites across the UK

“To put this into perspective, this means that air pollution causes more extra deaths a year than tobacco smoking,” said Thomas Münzel, one of the scientists who worked on the study. “Smoking is avoidable but air pollution is not.” He urges health regulatory organizations to pay more attention to air pollution in their guidelines for preventing cardiovascular disease.

Number of air pollution related deaths varied between countries. Germans suffered 154 premature deaths per 100,000, with an average life expectancy decrease of 2.4 years. In the UK, the air pollution toll was significantly less – 98 deaths per 100,000, with an average reduction in life of 1.5 years.

“Since most air pollutants come from the burning of fossil fuels, we need to switch to other sources of energy urgently,” said Jos Lelieveld, another scientist on the study. “When we use clean, renewable energy, we are not just fulfilling the Paris agreement to mitigate the effects of climate change, we could also reduce air pollution-related death rates by up to 55%.”

Via The Guardian

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