Air Pollution

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GGG_global_projectsPredicting global deaths from air pollution

Outdoor air pollution is among the most important environmental risk factors for health. Using global atmospheric chemistry-climate models, UNC researchers estimate that about 470,000 people die each year because of human-caused increases in ozone and 2.1 million die from human-caused increases in fine particulate matter – tiny particles suspended in the air that can penetrate deep into the lungs, causing cancer and other respiratory diseases. Many of these deaths are in East and South Asia, where populations are large and air pollution is severe.

This ongoing research is improving global understanding of the range of future health impacts of air pollution and climate change, and of climate-air interactions.  It is critical in informing decisions on air quality management as well as mitigation and adaption to climate change. Read More

A recent study, led by Dr. Jason West of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at Gillings, estimated that the effects of past climate change are a very small component of the overall effect of air pollution.  However, as future climate change becomes more severe it could have much greater effects..

The group’s continued research combines global atmospheric modeling with assessment of human health impacts in simulations that reflect past, present and future scenarios. As well as looking at current deaths from pollution, the study will model future mortality up until the year 2100 and identify the populations most likely to be affected.  It will use four different future scenarios based on whether specific action steps are taken to control air pollution and reduce climate change’s effects on air quality.

The research will add to a growing body of evidence revealing both the human and economic impacts of air pollution around the world.

Project Team

  • Jason West (Principal Investigator)
  • Jared Bowden
  • Marc Serre
  • Karin Yeatts
  • Raquel Silva
  • Yuqiang Zhang
  • Yasuyuki Akita


Sponsored by: NIH National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Total funding: $408,672


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