PM2.5 air pollution claims 160,000 lives in five cities

Delhi, Mexico and São Paulo are the cities with the highest death tolls, new research finds

Fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) was responsible for approximately 160,000 deaths in the world’s five largest cities in 2020.

Exposure to PM2.5 is considered the most important environmental risk factor for deaths globally and was attributed to 4.2 million premature deaths in 2015.

New research by Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the air quality technology company IQAir, suggests Delhi saw an estimated 54,000 deaths due to PM2.5 air pollution last year, or one death per 500 people.

Mexico, São Paulo, Shanghai and Tokyo followed India’s capital in the list of cities with the highest number of air pollution-triggered deaths.

The report also estimates that more than $5 billion (£3.6bn) was the economic cost of PM2.5 in 14 cities.

Of the included cities, the highest estimated total financial cost from air pollution was recorded in Tokyo, which suffered approximately 40,000 avoidable deaths and an economic loss of $43 billion (£31bn).

Avinash Chanchal, Climate Campaigner at Greenpeace India, said: “When governments choose coal, oil and gas over clean energy, it’s our health that pays the price.

“Air pollution from burning fossil fuels increases our likelihood of dying from cancer or stroke, suffering asthma attacks and of experiencing severe Covid-19.”

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