A new report shows that air pollution is the leading environmental cause of death in the world – and the number five cause of death overall. China and India lead the way with a combined 2.2 pollution-related deaths in 2015. These rising trends continue to put pressure on governments and industries that could make a difference.

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The State of Global Air 2017 report revealed how long-term exposure to harmful, small particulate matter in the air contributed to over 4 million premature deaths in 2015 – the equivalent of 103 million years of healthy life. The study, a combined effort by the Health Effects Institute (HEI) and Institute for Health Metrics and Evalution’s Global Burden of Disease Project, showed China and India as the nations suffering from the most health effects and early deaths due to air pollution. CNBC notes that UK air pollution deaths are also on the rise at 40,000 per year.

Related: Beijing creates new environmental police force to crack down on smog

“We are seeing increasing air pollution problems worldwide,” HEI President Dan Greenbaum said in a statement. “The trends we report show that we have seen progress in some parts of the world – but serious challenges remain.” Sadly, particulate matter tends to affect the very old and the very young, leaving the most vulnerable populations at a higher risk.


Images via Flickr (1,2)