Air pollution kills a lot of people – about 7.6 percent of the world population in 2016. Many factors cause air pollution, from household fires for cooking and heating, to (you guessed it) cars.
A report released yesterday from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) found that 11.4 percent of these deaths were attributable mostly to vehicle tail pipe emissions.
Most of these car pollution deaths occurred in cities with large vehicle markets, like Guangzhou, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Mexico City. But interestingly, when controlled for population, most deaths occurred in Europe. Milan, Turin, Stuttgart, Kiev, and Cologne experienced the highest deaths per 100,000 residents.
The researchers suggest that high rates of tail pipe emissions deaths in Europe are due to more diesel cars and a population with “relatively high baseline incidence rates for diseases that are affected by air pollution,” like lung cancer, stroke, and heart disease. In fact, only 4 percent of vehicles in the United States run on diesel, compared to 41 percent in the European Union. Europeans also smoke slightly more than Americans.
Yet although proportionally more Europeans die from tail pipe emissions than people in other regions, deaths have decreased by 14 percent between 2010 and 2015, according to ICCT. The researchers believe this is due to improved fuel economy standards.
In the same period, deaths from tail pipe emissions rose by 26 percent in both India and China. The researchers believe this is because of increasing vehicle ownership and vehicle miles traveled.
What does this mean for policymakers around the world? Stricter fuel economy standards!
ICCT researchers write, “The reductions [in deaths] in the EU and United States are attributable to
the implementation of world-class standards for fuel quality and new-vehicle emissions.
For example, standards such as Euro VI for heavy-duty vehicles and Tier 3 for light-duty vehicles reduce emissions of [particle matter pollution] by 99 percent or more.”
Photo of a street in Milan by Mariano Mantel on Flickr’s Creative Commons