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A study just published in the journal Environmental Research Letters has found that air pollution, caused by fine particles in the air capable of penetrating deep into the lungs, is responsible for 2.1 million deaths annually. The particles can cause cancer and respiratory disease. Co-author of the study, Jason West, from the University of North Carolina, said: "Our estimates make outdoor air pollution among the most important environmental risk factors for health. Many of these deaths are estimated to occur in East Asia and South Asia, where population is high and air pollution is severe."

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The study also examined the effect of air pollution on climate change, which can affect climate patterns in a number of ways. "For instance, temperature and humidity can change the reaction rates which determine the formation or lifetime of a pollutant, and rainfall can determine the time that pollutants can accumulate." The study found, however, that the number of these deaths that can be attributed to changes in the climate since the industrial era is relatively small. West said, "We found that the effects of past climate change are likely to be a very small component of the overall effect of air pollution."

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