A new study has found that, on top of all the other manner of ways our cars are trying to kill us, the pollution they emit is now one of the fastest growing causes of death in the world.
The study was published in the weekly journal The Lancet and looked at a wide range of global diseases and their contributing factors. They found that the recent explosion of car use in fast-growing Asian cities has helped bring global air pollution level with obesity as the fastest growing cause of death in the world.
According to the report, a frightening 3.2 million people died from air pollution in 2010, up from 800,000 people ten years earlier. What’s worse is that 2.1 million of those were from Asia.
“That’s a terribly high number – and much more people than previously thought,” said David Pettit, director of the southern California air programme with the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), according to The Guardian. “Earlier studies were limited to data that was available at the time on coarse particles in urban areas only.”
Anumita Roychowdhury, head of air pollution at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a New Delhi-based environmental group, said: “There is hard evidence now to act urgently to reduce the public health risks to all, particularly children, elderly and the poor. No-one can escape toxic air.”
The full effects of air pollution on health in Asian cities may not be seen for years, she said. “Toxic effects like cancer surface after a long latency period. Therefore, exposure to air pollution will have to be reduced today to reduce the burden of disease,” she said.
Given the massive explosion of population and subsequent technological rise of countries in Asia — most notably China and India — this corresponding pollution increase is hardly surprising, yet utterly terrifying all the same. As Roychowdhury has said, this evidence simply must now be followed by action.