Dirty air is more deadly than Smoking?

Fine dust and nitrogen oxides on health. So much is certain. To quantify the actual risk accurately, however, it is difficult. Statisticians argue, therefore, for a long time, how serious such high bills. Currently, a study by the Max-Planck-Institute for chemistry in Mainz for attention, which has now been published in the journal “European Heart Journal”. Air pollutants are lead, therefore, to more premature deaths than Smoking.

Worldwide cause, especially with the fine dust air-loaded 8.8 million deaths per year, according to the Team of atmosphere researchers, Jos Lelieveld and the cardiologist Thomas Münzel. In comparison, the number of Smoking decline in deaths – including passive Smoking – the world health organization (WHO) estimated that globally 7.2 million a year, the researchers argue.

About 120 people per 100,000 population die, therefore, worldwide each year prematurely from the effects of polluted air in Europe, about 133 per 100,000 inhabitants. The deaths can be attributed mainly to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. In Germany, even 154 per 100,000 inhabitants, it is the presented data, according to a year – more than for example in Poland, Italy or France. Air pollution reduces the average life expectancy of Europeans by about two years, explain the researchers.

“Pattern example, the same UN statistics,”

For the study, the Mainz researchers, different data were gathered, including from the global health study “the Global Burden of Disease”. They determined, first, the regional pollutants such as particulate matter and ozone. These values are linked with data on disease risks, as well as the population density and the causes of death in each of the countries.

Even before the publication of statisticians had criticized the study sharply. “First of all, not a single person of fine dust, but to diseases that can be caused by fine dust (with), it does not need to be dying in Germany,” wrote the statistician Katharina Schüller. Schüller has called the concept a “pattern example, the same UN statistics”. Behind the Numbers not only data, but assumptions are about the reality, which are connected with uncertainty of at least 50 percent.

An example: Statistically, a person who lives on a busy street dies considered sooner than one who lives in the countryside. But it would be to infer incorrectly to the conclusion that the exhaust gases alone, for the premature death. Because other factors could play a much larger role, Perhaps the man lives on the street, because he has little money and the rent is cheaper? It feeds therefore also more unhealthy and drives less Sport than the one who can afford a detached house in the country? Researchers use models, such factors to be added, but these are always associated with uncertainties.

In addition, the number of premature deaths is not to be equated with real deaths. Instead, it indicates how much percent of the deceased in a year, statistically still alive would be if it hadn’t been for the pollution. The number of years of life lost is therefore considered more accurate. It shows how much earlier people die due to a pollutant. (Read more about it here.)

Also, the Mainz-based researchers acknowledge that their projections are associated with uncertainties. Ultimately, it was in such epidemiological studies, a statistical estimate, also gives the Federal environment Agency. “The resulting Figures are to be seen as indicators for the health status of the population.”

The criticism from the statisticians in the results of the study does not mean, however, that air pollutants are harmless. People who are exposed over long periods of time, an increase in nitrogen dioxide pollution, and disease have an increased risk for Asthma, respiratory infections and cardiovascular. Especially persons with underlying conditions and children are at risk because their Airways are still developing.

Fine dust irritates also the respiratory tract and mucous membranes, so it can cause respiratory problems such as cough, shortness of breath and Asthma or strengthen. Also in the development of lung cancer, the particles can be involved. If you do not enter the blood, they also damage the risk for cardiovascular diseases increases.