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The pyrohealth transition: How combustion emissions have shaped health through human history


Johnston, FH and Melody, S and Bowman, DMJS, The pyrohealth transition: How combustion emissions have shaped health through human history, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 371, (1696) Article 20150173. ISSN 0962-8436 (2016) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2016 The Author(s)

DOI: doi:10.1098/rstb.2015.0173


Air pollution from landscape fires, domestic fires and fossil fuel combustion is recognized as the single most important global environmental risk factor for human mortality and is associated with a global burden of disease almost as large as that of tobacco smoking. The shift from a reliance on biomass to fossil fuels for powering economies, broadly described as the pyric transition, frames key patterns in human fire usage and landscape fire activity. These have produced distinct patters of human exposure to air pollution associated with the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions and post-industrial the Earth global system-wide changes increasingly known as the Anthropocene. Changes in patterns of human fertility, mortality and morbidity associated with economic development have been previously described in terms of demographic, epidemiological and nutrition transitions, yet these frameworks have not explicitly considered the direct consequences of combustion emissions for human health. To address this gap, we propose a pyrohealth transition and use data from the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) collaboration to compare direct mortality impacts of emissions from landscape fires, domestic fires, fossil fuel combustion and the global epidemic of tobacco smoking. Improving human health and reducing the environmental impacts on the Earth system will require a considerable reduction in biomass and fossil fuel combustion. This article is part of the themed issue 'The interaction of fire and mankind'.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:landscape fire, air pollution, epidemiological transition, mortality, biomass smoke, particulate matter
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Ecological applications
Research Field:Ecosystem function
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Public health (excl. specific population health)
Objective Field:Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Johnston, FH (Professor Fay Johnston)
UTAS Author:Melody, S (Dr Shannon Melody)
UTAS Author:Bowman, DMJS (Professor David Bowman)
ID Code:109358
Year Published:2016
Web of Science® Times Cited:12
Deposited By:Menzies Institute for Medical Research
Deposited On:2016-06-09
Last Modified:2017-10-31

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