Trends in the global health burden from outdoor air pollution

Trends in global health linked to fine particulate matter

Globally, deaths that can be linked to breathing ambient (outdoor) fine particulate matter (PM2.5) increased from about 3.3 million in 1990 to 4.1 million in 2016. This increase can be explained in part by higher levels of fine particles in outdoor air. But other factors also matter, such as growing human populations, the movement of people to cities where air pollution is worse, and the growing numbers of old people who are more likely to get ill when they breathe pollutanted air.

Number of deaths attributable to ambient PM2.5 in the 10 most populous countries and the European Union

[Figure J, © HEI]

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For trends in global health linked to ozone, see Explore the Data.

Trends in global health linked to household air pollution

The declining proportion of households using solid fuels in many countries (see figure on the Air Quality Trends page) has been reflected in decreases in global mortality attributable to household air pollution — a 30% decrease from 1990 (3.7 million deaths) to 2016 (2.6 million deaths). A 16% decrease has occurred in just the last 6 years.

Declining death rates from lower-respiratory disease, chronic-obstructive pulmonary disease, and stroke — and to some degree improved medical care and other factors — have also contributed to these trends. With few exceptions, these decreases in deaths attributable to household air pollution were experienced throughout the world.

Number of deaths attributable to household air pollution in countries with a population greater than 50 million and at least 10% solid fuel use.

[Figure K, © HEI]

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Explore the data

You can also explore global patterns and trends in the numbers and rates of DALYs related to fine particles, ozone, and household air pollution using the interactive tools in Explore the Data. Compare results among individual countries and among regional, sociodemographic, and economic groupings. See the How To page for more detailed instructions.