Air Pollution is Like Forcing Weak, Old and Young People to Smoke Every Day

Microscopic particulates that form from the use of fossil fuels for energy, transportation, industry and agriculture are the main cause of deaths from air pollution. The main sources of air pollution are from coal for energy generation and the various uses of oil for industry and transportation. There are also particulates from agriculture, wildfires.

Emissions from the combustion of gasoline, oil, diesel fuel or wood produce much of the PM2.5 pollution found in outdoor air, as well as a significant proportion of PM10. PM10 also includes dust from construction sites, landfills and agriculture, wildfires and brush/waste burning, industrial sources, wind-blown dust from open lands, pollen and fragments of bacteria.

Air pollution tends to kill the elderly and people with asthmas and other conditions. However, everyone in highly polluted areas have to breath. The worst areas with bad air pollution is like forcing grandma and babies to smoke a few cigarettes every day. This is why the death and illness numbers are so high. Overall about 70% as much as all of the annual deaths from smoking.

PM2.5 air pollution causes an estimated 4.2 million premature deaths every year globally. This includes over a million deaths in China, over half a million in India, almost 200,000 in Europe, and over 50,000 in the United States.

PM2.5 pollution forms directly during combustion and is present in vehicle exhaust. Additional PM2.5 particles are generated by brake and tire wear. However, much of the PM2.5 forms indirectly through the reactions of pollutant gases in the atmosphere, often in combination with sunlight. These pollutant gases that can lead to particle formation include ammonium, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and volatile organic compounds.

In China and India, secondary inorganic aerosols account for a large portion of the ambient PM2.5 mass concentration which is mainly formed from sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Significant use of coal in China and India generates large amounts of SO2 and NOx. The power generation sector contributes 28.5% and 32.5% to SO2 and NOx emissions in China, and 59.1% and 25.0% in India.

People in China and India died on average about 20 years earlier because of air pollution diseases.

Power plants are responsible for approximately 39% of ambient PM2.5 across China, and therefore are responsible for this share of the mortality attributable to PM2.5 exposure – some 500 thousand annual deaths.

In India, ambient PM2.5 concentrations resulting from all sources are projected to be responsible for 804 thousand premature deaths. Power generation (mainly coal) accounts for 300,000 deaths per year in India.

Coal generates 35-40% of world electricity. Nuclear energy generates about 10% of world electricity. Nuclear reduced coal energy usage in the west starting from the 1970s and 1980s. Nuclear energy-reduced China’s coal usage by about 5%. Nuclear energy reduced air pollution deaths by about 100,000 people per year for the last 50 years.

There are also a few tens of thousands of annual deaths from mining and transporting billions of tons of fossil fuel every year.

SOURCES- WHO, Our World in Data
Written By Brian Wang,

14 thoughts on “Air Pollution is Like Forcing Weak, Old and Young People to Smoke Every Day”

  1. Bleeding-Heart Liberal, Politically-infeasible nonsense.
    large scale 'big old-type' nuclear power is not politically, financially, or logistically supportable with crucial tax payer (or retired) citizenship, investors, or conservative/ centrist adherents.
    It is politically ludicrous that anyone would support 'buying off' miners to make them go away irrespective of health care costs which are fluffy, undefinable, and non-'here and now'. If it doesn't cause you to drop dead with multiple obvious visual cues in the next few months – it's not perceived as a real threat. You have to have a more sophisiticated and cynical view of the world, to prosper and have your ideas 'take' — these Gen-z, Millenials 30s/40s -forever-Tween enviro-snowflakes will get crushed in getting any real change or advancement, because they do not understand the motivations, incentives, and networks of how ideas become inventions become investible become commercial become widespread become perennially accepted. That's why fracking, off-shore drilling, and new oil pipelines will continue to be built for generations from now. Of course everyone wants the cheap and ubiquitous energy that fission, fusion, and large-scale storage will enable, especially if it is carbon free — but its not about logic or tech or future generations – its about politics, profit, and who's paying. If you can't sell it like that-forget it.

  2. Who's saying to simply shut down our energy sources? We're saying to replace them. Renewables and nuclear do the job just fine. And on this site, you can find all sorts of advanced stuff that would be better and cheaper than any form of fossil.

    Same goes for a lot of transportation. Electric cars will hit cost parity around 2023 and be cheaper than ICE after that.

    We started burning coal for energy 250 years ago. It's ridiculous that we're still doing it, now that we know how to provide all the energy you need for your entire life from a lump of fuel smaller than a golfball.

    As for employment, coal miners get a lot of attention but there are less than 50,000 of them. If we shut down coal production, we could pay each of them a full pension for life, and it'd cost a fraction of our savings in healthcare costs.

  3. Exactly! That is why it is so important to tell people about O'Neill. They have never even heard of him, including those giving the poll. Those of us who do understand O'Neill have a heavy responsiblity to do this.

  4. Not convinced that average people want to make a continued, dominant, society-saving, and relocation-type presence/ contribution/ investment in Space — though they do seem, for some reason, to want the prestige of being perceived as a top nation in some aspects. Doesn't bode well for doing anything more than some increased telecommunication/ observation advantages, trifling zero-grav research, and a bit of sentimental, but otherwise uninspired, presence in and above (slightly) orbit.
    Ho. Hum….

  5. Yes, quite true. Starship just means we, Earth, run short of the stuff to launch faster. The stuff is in Space already. However, Space Solar is soooooo easy that we need to start Earth to Earth power beaming now. Space Solar will then ironically need more people making $$ in Space than we can afford to just send, as Musk wants to do for Mars. Now, many consider making money as proof of evil. Love of money, not money, the quote sez. Energy is the big market, Sun is the big, cheap supply. The race is on!

  6. The polluting stuff is people. If you're going to move them, then you had better build something with native materials for them to live in. Even with starship it will not work to bring everything from earth.

  7. hmm… national prestige and techno-equivalence desperation -vs- corporate-profit-hoarding and brand appreciation -vs- nanny state good-citizen project initiative -vs- poor country techno-pity-colonization investment.
    Different country systems -> different views on 'noble' projects…

  8. The essence of complexity. Many believe that entire economic sectors can be uprooted and 're-assigned' in a few years. "Hey", they say, "just hire and fire those 10,000 miners…" …with 20+ years experience and put them in a natural gas facility, installing wind turbines, building hydro-electric dams, assembly-line electric cars… unmotivated, untrained, and dislocated from their daily lives does not translate to efficiency, competence, and anything except the most minimal and grudging productivity – this is the fundamental flaw of top-down, limited choice, multi-industry planning models – unpredictable, unincentivized, and non-sanctioned massive capital movements. This is especially challenging when an economy is emerging from a primitive agriculture, countryside work-mentality, and industrial peasant kind of system. Services, cosmopolitan cities, consumerism, and disposable income is a bizarre change in culture — and definitely required to provide an educated, motivated, entrepreneurial, and task-oriented workforce. Nuclear facilities, EVs, space programs, etc., have to emerge from a population that appreciates these industries as part of their lives, not just token projects for national prestige and techno-equivalence desparation.

  9. Deaths from the diseases of poverty kill twice as many as air pollution. So China choosing coal in the 1970s and 1980s to rise out of poverty was the right move. But they should transition to nuclear and non fossil fuel energy at a scaled up France 1980s rate now and back starting in the 1990s as they could afford it.

  10. How many people has the burning of coal saved from freezing to death? How many people has the burning of Diesel fuel saved from starvation? Seldom are these questions asked of those that condemn fossil fuels.

  11. I notice most of the high death nations are in the "arid band" to the north of the equatorial region, where air descends, warms, and it's relative humidity decreases resulting in deserts. The highest death nations are adjacent to the Tibetan plateau, a dry, windy source of copious wind blown dust.
    I wonder if dust from areas with high winds, and little vegetation has a larger effect than this article states.

  12. When NYC switched from #2 fuel oil to fracked natural gas, it improved the air quality so much that Scientific American said it literally saved lives.

    Of course NYC was even allowing #4 fuel oil which is just nasty.

  13. Probably easier to have a real debate if the industries that contribute to air pollution can also be contrasted with how many people they employ, contribution to economy, easy alternatives for these people 'to get up and move/ work/ live somewhere else' (if any), what other parts of economy would be affected if such were simply shut down, how air pollution deaths compares to people with a poor diet, never ran a block in their life, smokes/ drinks, etc.
    I think you'll find that most people take an active role in weighing the pros and cons of their home, work, family, and other situations — and choose 'interestingly'. Wasn't there some documentary around 2000 in PA or WV asking people why they work, live, and raise children in a coal-mining town with crazy-high pneumoconiosis.

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