March 12 (UPI) -- Dirty air is causing people to die earlier than they should, a new study says.
Air pollution kills 8.8 million people per year globally due to heart attacks and stroke, according to a new study published Tuesday in the European Heart Journal.
"To put this into perspective, this means that air pollution causes more extra deaths a year than tobacco smoking, which the World Health Organization estimates was responsible for an extra 7.2 million deaths in 2015. Smoking is avoidable but air pollution is not," Thomas Münzel, a researcher at Johannes Gutenberg University and study author, in a news release.
"The number of deaths from cardiovascular disease that can be attributed to air pollution is much higher than expected. In Europe alone, the excess number of deaths is nearly 800,000 a year and each of these deaths represents an average reduction in life expectancy of more than two years."
Globally, the researchers discovered that air pollution caused 120 more deaths per year per 100,000 of the population.
In Europe, specifically, pollution has caused nearly 800,000 deaths at a rate of 133 per 100,000. Between 40 percent to 80 percent of those deaths came from either heart attacks or strokes. That's twice as many deaths from cardiovascular disease than respiratory illnesses.
Poland had almost a three-year reduction in life expectancy due to pollution, while Germany had a 2.4-year reduction and Itally had nearly a two-year reduction.
And some studies say pollution is even a threat to people who haven't even come into this world yet.
To find the data, the researchers examined how atmospheric chemical processes co-mingled with land, sea and chemicals that came from natural and artificial sources like agriculture, energy generation, industry and traffic.
"The link between air pollution and cardiovascular disease, as well as respiratory diseases, is well established. It causes damage to the blood vessels through increased oxidative stress, which then leads to increases in blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart attacks and heart failure," Münzel said.