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, Nextbigfuture.com
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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