While both importing and exporting goods, air pollution can leadto premature deaths
A study that measures the human toll of air pollution from global manufacturing and trade shows how buying goods made far away can lead to premature deaths both there and close to home.
More than 7,50,000 people die prematurely from dirty air every year that is generated by making goods in one location that will be sold elsewhere, about one-fifth of the 3.45 million premature deaths from air pollution. The study says 12 per cent of those deaths, about 4,11,000 people, are a result of air pollution that has blown across national borders.
“It’s not a local issue anymore,” said study co-author Dabo Guan, an economist at the University of East Anglia in England. “It requires global cooperation.”
It found that people in Western Europe buying goods made elsewhere were linked to 1,73,000 overseas air pollution deaths a year, while the U.S. consumption was linked to just over 1,00,000 deaths, according to the study published in journal Nature recently.
What that looks like in China: 2,38,000 deaths a year associated with production of goods that are bought or consumed elsewhere. It is 1,06,000 deaths in India and 1,29,000 deaths in the rest of Asia.
“We have a role in the quality of the air in those areas,” study co-author Steven Davis, an atmospheric scientist at the University of California, Irvine, said in an interview. “We’re taking advantage of our positon as consumers, distant consumers.”
Still, the study says three-quarters of the one million air pollution deaths in China and the nearly half-a-million deaths in India are from production of goods that are consumed locally.
Production is likely to remain concentrated in Asia, however, and it will have to be up to those countries to better regulate their own industrial emissions, said Peter Adams, an engineering professor and air pollution expert at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, who wasn’t part of the study. “Relying on consumer altruism,” he said, won’t be enough.AP