What Caused More Deaths Than COVID-19? Air Pollution!

by Kareena Dodeja

What Caused More Deaths Than COVID-19? Air Pollution!

April 5, 2021

Something is in the air apart from COVID-19. While the number of deaths has been sky-rocketing due to COVID-19, the lesser-known fact is that air pollution has also been a threat to humanity. We have been so focused on the pandemic that air pollution slides unnoticed.

Breathing toxic pollutants inside the human body and inhaling pollution as a nose smelling industrial toxins with 3D illustration elements.

Air Pollution Is More Petrifying Than COVID-19

The number of deaths caused by COVID-19 has been worrisome but there is another factor that has been hidden that is equally alarming- air pollution. We have swept it under the rug for far too long but air pollution needs to be taken seriously. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to distress around the world and ebbed economic activity as well. According to analysis from environmental group, Greenpeace and Swiss Air quality technology firm, IQAIR, smog has been a bigger killer than COVID-19 in 2020.

A Guardian Columnist, Rebecca Solnit wrote a piece in the newspaper about the daunting threat to humanity. She says that a recent study found that air pollution is caused by the use of fossil fuels which has resulted in the deaths of around 8.7 million people worldwide every year. The statistics have been worrisome as 62% of the deaths are allegedly occurring in China and India. It suggests that it kills roughly three times annually as many people as the COVID-19 pandemic did last year.

Solnit has made sure we have a hard look over the fact that COVID-19 has been the forefront of every discussion but air pollution and climate change haven’t been enough. She argues that we have learned to ignore other forms of death and destruction. She reiterates that we have normalized other forms as a kind of moral background noise.

She wrote that what if we treated those 8.7 million deaths from air pollution as an emergency and a crisis. We should recognize the respiratory impact from particulates is only a small part of the devastating impact of burning fossil fuels. She suggested that we should use the same amount of funds available used to tackle COVID-19 for fighting climate change.

Air pollution from vehicle tailpipes. A number of criteria pollutants, including carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, are emitted by gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles.

The Alarming Situation Of Countries

The major cities affected by it are Shanghai, Tokyo, Delhi, Mexico City, and Sao Paulo. It has been reported that 160,000 people have been killed due to a small particulate matter known as PM 2.5 in the air that has penetrated deep into their lungs. It can lead to health issues such as lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and in some cases diabetes.

Delhi is known as the world’s most polluted city and it has been estimated that 54,000 deaths have been caused due to the PM 2.5 air pollution in 2020. The number of deaths due to air pollution has been five times more than the reported deaths from COVID-19. Jakarta is ranked as the world’s smoggiest urban center has lost 13,000 lives to air pollution which is double the COVID-19-related deaths.

The Greenpeace study recorded the economic cost of air pollution in a year when the global economy went into recession. Tokyo was reported to have suffered a big economic contraction as it lost the US $43 billion to smog in 2020. Shanghai was next to losing $19 billion to air pollution. This is alarming as the cost is calculated on healthcare costs and lost productivity.

Los Angeles was one to face the biggest financial hit due to the PM 2.5 air pollution at the US $2,700 per resident. Jakarta lost 8.2% of the city’s total GDP to poor air quality which is worrisome to think about. Frank Hammes, the Chief executive of IQAir said that poor air quality has claimed 160,000 lives in the five largest cities should give us pause.

Something Is In The Air And It Is Bad

Aidan Farrow, an air quality scientist at Greenpeace said to Eco-business that research states a need to urgently scale up clean energy, build electrified, accessible transport systems, and end reliance on polluting fossil fuels. He says that improving air quality could reduce our susceptibility to diseases like COVID which stands in favor to improve air quality. It poses another reason to shift from fossil fuel to clean renewable technology.

Solnit argued that in the US, they have spent trillions of dollars in the wake of the pandemic to change how they live and work so they need to do the same for the climate crisis. According to the New York Times Tracker, we cannot look away from the argument as thousands succumb to coronavirus every day, around 2.8 million people have died so far since the start of the pandemic. What matters is that we should mobilize resources to face other issues plaguing humanity such as climate change.

There have been studies that show that air pollution makes it easier for people to contract coronavirus as well as develop severe symptoms. Another paper suggested that 15% of COVID deaths worldwide and 27% of COVID deaths in East Asia were caused due to long-term exposure to air pollution. Well, this is a siren to focus on climate change and to take it seriously.



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