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Air pollution kills more people than malaria & Aids combined

Outdoor air pollution cause more premature deaths than Aids and malaria combined, according to a new landmark study recently published in scientific journal, Nature.

Using computer models, the researchers estimated that 3.3 million people die from heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and respiratory diseases, reported The Guardian.

The United Nations (UN) estimated that 1.3 million people died from Aids and 560,000 people died from Malaria in 2013.

Alarmingly, the researchers warn that the number of premature deaths would double by 2050.

“In some countries, air pollution is actually a leading cause of death, and in many countries, it is a major issue.” - Jos Lelieveld of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany, who led the research.

The team combined a global atmospheric chemistry model with population data and health statistics to estimate how different kinds of outdoor air pollution contributed to premature deaths.

In India and China, emissions from heating and cooking have the largest death toll, while in much of the United States and a few other countries, emissions from traffic and power generation are lethal.

In the eastern US and in Europe, Russia and East Asia, agricultural emissions are the biggest source of the kind of fine particulate matter that gets into people’s lungs, causing illness, disability and death.

The report estimates that China leads the list with 1.3m people dying prematurely, while 640,000 people die in India.

Singapore's neighbours Indonesia, where forest fire are causing countries like Singapore and Malaysia to suffer from haze, suffered from over 50,000 premature deaths due to air pollution.

South-east Asian deaths cause by smoke from landscape fires


Burnt trees on peatland in Rimbo Panjang, Riau province. PHOTO: AFP

A separate study published in the Environmental Health Perspectives in 2012 estimated that from 1997 to 2006, an estimated 110,000 deaths in South-east Asia could be attributed to smoke from landscape fires.

Although number of deaths from this year's haze is unknown, The Straits Times reported last Friday (Sept 11) that there has been at least one death in Indonesia arising from the haze.

A 15-year-old student from Jambi, Riau died after coughing for three straight days.

The haze also cause her to have difficulty breathing.

Sources: The Guardian, Environment Health Perspectives, World Health Organisation, United Nations, The Straits Times

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