A new study released by researchers from various countries warned that the number of deaths caused by air pollution can increase to more than six million a year by 2050.
In addition, the study also revealed a surprising major contributor in the world's pollution level.
For the study, researchers from different regions including U.S., Cyprus, Saudi Arabia and Germany compiled data regarding the number of people who die annually because of air pollutants, the Associated Press has learned.
Currently, an average of 3.3 million people die each year due to the pollution found in outdoor air. According to the researchers, the particles, soot and smog in the air lead to the development of cardiovascular diseases, respiratory problems and lung cancer.
The death rate attributed to air pollution oven topped the fatalities caused by malaria and HIV combined.
"The total number of deaths due to HIV and malaria is 2.8 million per year," Jos Lelieveld, the lead author of the study said according to CNN. "That's half a million less than the number of people who die from air pollution globally."
Based on the data collected by researchers, which was obtained using computer models and statistics, one of the biggest factors that contributes to air pollution is from the agriculture industry, and not carbon emissions produced by vehicles as previously thought.
The researchers explained that most farms in various countries produce ammonia due to animal waste and the use of fertilizers. As this enters the air, it mixes with the sulfates emitted by coal-powered industrial facilities and the nitrates produced by vehicles, NBC News reported. The combination of these factors result in the development of soot particles which when inhaled, can lead to various health complications.
Other factors that contribute to air pollution include the burning of wood and other biofuels for heating and cooking.
According to the researchers' report, the country with the highest death rate from air pollution is China at 1.4 million a year. This is followed by India with an annual average death rate of 645,000.
The researchers warned that if countries do not take on active efforts to curb air pollution, the annual death toll can double in less than 40 years. If nothing is done regarding the pollutants in the air, 6.6 million people could die a year by 2050.
The findings of the researchers were detail in a report which was published on September 16 by the scientific journal Nature.