Outdoor air pollution is, according to the World Health Organisation, responsible for 3.2 million premature deaths every year. We have always known that air pollution, usually caused by burning usually of fuel, is dangerous and that those who are exposed to pollution from vehicles or industry become ill and end up with diseases which affect their breathing as their lungs act as air filters. What was not known until now is that even a few months’ exposure to pollution is likely to increase the risk of premature death, as a study at the University of Utrecht, published in the Lancet, shows.
It is the fine particles that cause the most damage. Particles of 2.5 microns or less in the air you breathe for a few months will make many people ill and eventually kill them. The European Union’s prescribed levels of safe air pollution seem to be set at levels which when maintained will be responsible for around 8% of those who breathe such air dying prematurely.
The EU level of pollution is set at 25 microns per cubic metre and researchers believe that this level is too high and should be set to 10 microns per cubic metre. I cannot see this rest happening, however desirable or however many lives may be improved or saved. There are too many vested interests in burning stuff, whether it is burning car fuel in internal combustion engines, burning to create electrical power or heat energy or burning for industrial processes.
As a species we are burning too much and too carelessly. Of course, Sir Walter Raleigh was such a stupid git, but those that smoke tobacco do so now knowing what they do. Those who breathe have no choice in the matter.