Horrific Air Pollution in Europe Reaches 7 cigarettes per day equivalent, a pack a day in India and China

It’s winter, and that’s the worst air pollution period for Europe and China. The levels over much of the continent are in the unhealthy range. In the figure we show a map of the pollution of particulate matter in Europe, “PM2.5”, the most lethal of the common air pollutions. The map was taken from our website: http://berkeleyearth.org/air-quality-real-time-map/ where it is updated hourly. Grey areas (such as in Italy and Russia) are regions in which hourly updates are not publicly available.

Europe air pollution

The scale of “cigarettes per day” is used to make the levels easiest to understand. They were calculated by comparing the known health risk of cigarettes to the known health risks of PM2.5 as estimated by the World Health Organization. Throughout much of Europe the pollution levels give a health effect equivalent to that of every man, woman and child smoking 5 cigarettes per day; in the worst regions of Europe, the level exceeds 7 cigarettes per day equivalent.  For more information on PM2.5 and cigarette equivalence, see our memo: http://berkeleyearth.org/air-pollution-and-cigarette-equivalence/

The second plot shows yesterday’s air pollution around the world.  The worst pollution is in India and China, where levels reach over a pack of cigarettes per day (PM2.5 above 400 micrograms per cubic meter). It was not a good day for much of the world, except for the US, Japan, and some small scattered regions. The pollution tends to be exacerbated in winter, when more fuel is burned for heat (even renewables such as wood and biomass contribute to air pollution) and when atmospheric conditions are likely to trap the pollution.

World Air Pollution 2017-01-24 at 4.21.39 PM

For more detailed information on Berkeley Earth’s work on air pollution, see: http://berkeleyearth.org/air-pollution-overview/.