İrem UZUN -TDO- In a study published in the journal Environmental Research on Tuesday, researchers from Harvard University, in collaboration with the University of Birmingham, the University of Leicester and University College London, found that exposure to particulate matter from fossil fuel emissions accounted for 18% of total global deaths- almost one in five- in 2018.

The figure is much higher than previously thought. As recently as in 2019, scientists were estimating that 4.2 million people die each year from outdoor airborne particulate matter pollution, a figure that included people who die because of pollution from dust and smoke from wildfires and agricultural fires. The new study shows that in 2018, estimated 8.7 million deaths were linked to fossil fuel emissions alone.

The study shows that burning fossil fuels have dire implications for the health of human beings, in addition to be a major contributing factor in climate change.  “Our study adds to the mounting evidence that air pollution from ongoing dependence on fossil fuels is detrimental to global health,” co-author Eloise Marais, an associate professor at University College London, said in a statement. “We can’t in good conscience continue to rely on fossil fuels, when we know that there are such severe effects on health and viable, cleaner alternatives.”

Other studies have shown that eliminating fossil fuels would add a year to human life expectancy and reduce health-related economic costs by about $3 trillion per year.  "We don't appreciate that air pollution is an invisible killer. The air we breathe impacts everyone's health but particularly children, older individuals, those on low incomes and people of color. Usually people in urban areas have the worst impacts," Dr. Neelu Tummala, a physician at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences said.

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