Thousands of people die every year because of urban smog

An international group of scientists conducted a major study that affected 406 cities from twenty countries and data on the mortality of more than 45 million people and found that ozone air pollution increases the risk of premature death of residents of megacities. The results are published in The BMJ.

Ground-level (or tropospheric) ozone is the main component of urban smog, which is a deadly hazard for people, animals, and plants. According to a report by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, ground-level ozone has a general toxic, irritating, carcinogenic and mutagenic effect on the human body and can lead to premature death in the case of daily exposure to an environment where its norm is exceeded.

The threshold value of the ozone content in the air is as follows: according to the WHO standard - 100 µg/m3, according to the European Union Directive - 120 µg/m3, according to the US national air quality standard - 140 µg/m3. In Russia and China, the acceptable concentration is 160 µg/m3.

Scientists studied a database of ground-level ozone levels in 406 cities located in two dozen countries in Europe, America, Africa and Asia, and compared them with data on the mortality of their residents between 1985 and 2015. A total of 45,165,171 deaths were analyzed.

As the study showed, the ozone concentration in the air of most major cities in the world was exceeded, and a significant part of the deaths was associated with this. Increasing the level of ground-level ozone by 10 µg/m3 increased the chance of premature death of residents of megacities by 0.18%.

Based on these calculations, the researchers say that at least 13 thousand deaths could have been avoided if the concentration of ground-level ozone was normal. 

In fact, the total number of deaths should be much higher, experts say. This is because they did not have accurate data about the level of ozone in many other major cities. They believe that it is necessary to tighten control over compliance with established standards, as well as impose a strict limit on the amount of urban emissions.

Feb. 11, 2020, 11:07 a.m.

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