Smog caused by wildfires in Canada shrouded New York's famous skyscrapers in a thick haze of pollution
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A new study published in the journal BMJ has claimed that air pollution caused by fossil fuels is killing 5 million people every year across the world.

The study has attributed 61% of the total 8.3 million deaths to ambient air pollution in 2019. More than half of these deaths were associated with conditions such as ischemic heart disease (30%), stroke (16%), chronic obstructive lung disease (16%), and diabetes (6%).

The most significant effects were seen in South and East Asian countries, such as India and China. China reported 2.44 million deaths annually, while India reported 2.18 million deaths.

According to the WHO, air pollution is responsible for about 7 million premature deaths per year. It adds that the disease burden due to air pollution is now estimated to be on par with other major global health risks.

In some cases, extremely tiny air pollution particles can even cross the blood-brain barrier and damage the neurons directly. However, Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 has especially become a major cause of concern for authorities across the globe since it is so small that it can penetrate deep into the lungs.

PM 2.5 are a mixture of tiny solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air that can enter the lungs and bloodstream.

The big picture:

Recently, a study conducted by the University of Chicago's Energy Policy Institute (EPIC) claimed that increasing air pollution can cut life expectancy by more than five years per person in the region.

The countries at risk are also some of the most polluted countries in the world, such as Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan.

Similarly, another study published in The Lancet revealed that pollution caused approximately 9 million premature deaths worldwide in 2019. It included countries like China, the US, and many African and European countries.

According to the WHO: "Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health. By reducing air pollution levels, countries can reduce the disease burden from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma."

If immediate steps are not taken to bring the situation under control, humans may have to face devastating consequences. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also called for a complete "phaseout" of fossil fuels.

"We need to do it in an organised way and we need to make sure that we have a time framework that is simultaneously credible but at the same time is in line with our objective to keep the temperature rise at 1.5 degrees," he told The Associated Press.

A warming of 2°C is the official limit for the end of the century targeted in the Paris Agreement. Climate change is already causing record-setting temperatures to become more frequent. It has become the biggest threat to the survival of humanity.