Washington :Air pollution is killing 3.3 million people a year worldwide, according to a new study that includes this surprise: Farming plays a large role in smog and soot deaths in industrial nations.
Scientists in Germany, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia and Harvard University calculated the most detailed estimates yet of the toll of air pollution, looking at what caused it. The study also projects that if trends don’t change, the yearly death total will double to about 6.6 million a year by 2050.
The study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, used health statistics and computer models. About three quarters of the deaths are from strokes and heart attacks, said lead author Jos Lelieveld at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany.
The findings are similar to other less detailed pollution death estimates, outside experts said.
“About 6 percent of all global deaths each occur prematurely due to exposure to ambient air pollution. This number is higher than most experts would have expected, say, 10 years ago,” said Jason West, a University of North Carolina environmental sciences professor who wasn’t part of the study but praised it.
Air pollution kills more than HIV and malaria combined, Lelieveld said.
With nearly 1.4 million deaths a year, China has the most air pollution fatalities, followed by India with 645,000 and Pakistan with 110,000.
The United States, with 54,905 deaths in 2010 from soot and smog, ranks seventh highest for air pollution deaths. What’s unusual is that the study says that agriculture caused 16,221 of those deaths, second only to 16,929 deaths blamed on power plants.