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Global mortality from outdoor fine particle pollution generated by fossil fuel combustion: Results from GEOS-Chem

Vohra, K; Vodonos, A; Schwartz, J; Marais, E; Sulprizio, MP; Mickley, L; (2021) Global mortality from outdoor fine particle pollution generated by fossil fuel combustion: Results from GEOS-Chem. Environmental Research , 195 , Article 110754. 10.1016/j.envres.2021.110754. Green open access

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Abstract

The burning of fossil fuels – especially coal, petrol, and diesel – is a major source of airborne fine particulate matter (PM2.5), and a key contributor to the global burden of mortality and disease. Previous risk assessments have examined the health response to total PM2.5, not just PM2.5 from fossil fuel combustion, and have used a concentration-response function with limited support from the literature and data at both high and low concentrations. This assessment examines mortality associated with PM2.5 from only fossil fuel combustion, making use of a recent meta-analysis of newer studies with a wider range of exposure. We also estimated mortality due to lower respiratory infections (LRI) among children under the age of five in the Americas and Europe, regions for which we have reliable data on the relative risk of this health outcome from PM2.5 exposure. We used the chemical transport model GEOS-Chem to estimate global exposure levels to fossil-fuel related PM2.5 in 2012. Relative risks of mortality were modeled using functions that link long-term exposure to PM2.5 and mortality, incorporating nonlinearity in the concentration response. We estimate a global total of 10.2 (95% CI: -47.1 to 17.0) million premature deaths annually attributable to the fossil-fuel component of PM2.5. The greatest mortality impact is estimated over regions with substantial fossil fuel related PM2.5, notably China (3.9 million), India (2.5 million) and parts of eastern US, Europe and Southeast Asia. The estimate for China predates substantial decline in fossil fuel emissions and decreases to 2.4 million premature deaths due to 43.7% reduction in fossil fuel PM2.5 from 2012 to 2018 bringing the global total to 8.7 (95% CI: -1.8 to 14.0) million premature deaths. We also estimated excess annual deaths due to LRI in children (0-4 years old) of 876 in North America, 747 in South America, and 605 in Europe. This study demonstrates that the fossil fuel component of PM2.5 contributes a large mortality burden. The steeper concentration-response function slope at lower concentrations leads to larger estimates than previously found in Europe and North America, and the slower drop-off in slope at higher concentrations results in larger estimates in Asia. Fossil fuel combustion can be more readily controlled than other sources and precursors of PM2.5 such as dust or wildfire smoke, so this is a clear message to policymakers and stakeholders to further incentivize a shift to clean sources of energy.

Type: Article
Title: Global mortality from outdoor fine particle pollution generated by fossil fuel combustion: Results from GEOS-Chem
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2021.110754
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2021.110754
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
Keywords: particulate matter, fossil fuel, mortality, health impact assessment
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Geography
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10119672
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