Publication: The Global Health Cost of Ambient PM2.5 Air Pollution

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World Bank
Air pollution is a major cause of death and disease. ‘Ambient air pollution’ refers to contamination of outdoor air; ‘household air pollution’ refers to contamination of indoor air. Ambient (or outdoor) air pollution is the world’s leading environmental risk to health and the cause of morbidity and mortality from diseases such as ischemic heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stroke, and pneumonia. Most deaths related to air pollution are caused by human exposure to fine inhalable particles or fine particulate matter, also known as PM2.5. An estimated 4.1 million people died prematurely worldwide in 2016 due to exposure to outdoor PM2.5. About 90 percent of those deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries. This report provides an estimate of the global, regional, and national costs of health damage—that is, premature mortality and morbidity—from exposure to ambient PM2.5 air pollution in 2016. Using the estimates of mortality and morbidity from ambient PM2.5 published in the Global Burden of Disease 2016 study, this report estimates the global cost of premature mortality and morbidity from exposure to ambient PM2.5 air pollution to be $5.7 trillion in 2016, equivalent to 4.8 percent of global gross domestic product in the same year. Global health crises further highlight the need for continued action in addressing a global and cross-cutting challenge such as air pollution. The current global COVID-19 pandemic underscores the importance of reducing air pollution through preventive and abatement measures. People who contract COVID-19 and have underlying medical problems such as heart disease, lung disease, and cancer, which are also associated with air pollution, are at a higher risk of developing serious illnesses that could lead to death.
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World Bank. 2020. The Global Health Cost of Ambient PM2.5 Air Pollution. © World Bank, Washington, DC. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
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