According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution has become the world’s single biggest environmental health risk, with around 7 million people, or nearly one in eight, deaths in 2012. 3.7 million persons were affected by outdoor pollution from traffic fumes and coal-burning. The results include stroke, heart and lung diseases, and cancers. The main risks are located within the growth of cities and industrial areas, notably in south-east Asia with 2.6 million deaths with continuing deep poverty in rural areas. Rich countries are not spared by this phenomenon: about 200,000 early deaths in the United States of America (USA) and 100,000 premature deaths in Europe.
As explained by the global team of scientists from the USA, Israel and China in Chen et al. (2013), there is notably a strong link between the abundance of the Particulate Matter (PM) 10 and PM2.5 and the reduction of life expectancy.
Scientists of the Energy Policy Institute (EPIC) at the University of Chicago con- cluded that the lifetime will be reduced by 7 months for every additional 10 μg/m3 of PM10, 1-year reduction for every additional 10 μg/m3 of PM2.5 in the air. This is of course a detrimental conclusion for the Chinese cities covered by the Huai River Policy (i.e. free coal for indoor heating provided by the Chinese government since the 1950s) with reduction of life expectancy of about 5.5 years (Chen et al., 2013). Developing countries are also impacted where PM2.5 concentration levels are shortening lifespan of 1 month in New York and 8 months in Los Angeles and EPIC (https://aqli.epic.uchicago.edu/wp-content/ uploads/2017/09/AQLI_1Pager_US.pdf).
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) estimated that 2 billion children in 2012 lived in areas where outdoor air exceed international limits, with about 20- 120 million in Europe (UNICEF, 2016). Beginning 2017, the European Environment Agency released the air and water quality review country report focused on the Netherlands. It estimated that about 11,530 premature deaths were attributable to fine particulate matter concentrations, with an additional 270 to O3 – Ozone and over 1,820 to NO2 – Nitrogen dioxide (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eir/pdf/report_nl_en.pdf, page 16).