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Estimated global mortality attributable to smoke from landscape fires


Johnston, FH and Henderson, SB and Chen, Y and Randerson, JT and Marlier, M and DeFries, RS and Kinney, P and Bowman, DMJS and Brauer, M, Estimated global mortality attributable to smoke from landscape fires, Environmental Health Perspectives, 120, (5) pp. 695-701. ISSN 0091-6765 (2012) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

2012 Reproduced with permission from Environmental Health Perspectives

DOI: doi:10.1289/ehp.1104422


Background: Forest, grass, and peat fires release approximately 2 petagrams of carbon into the atmosphere each year, influencing weather, climate, and air quality.

Objective: We estimated the annual global mortality attributable to landscape fire smoke (LFS).

Methods: Daily and annual exposure to particulate matter ≤ 2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM2.5) from fire emissions was estimated globally for 1997 through 2006 by combining outputs from a chemical transport model with satellite-based observations of aerosol optical depth. In World Health Organization (WHO) subregions classified as sporadically affected, the daily burden of mortality was estimated using previously published concentration–response coefficients for the association between short-term elevations in PM2.5 from LFS (contrasted with 0 μg/m3 from LFS) and all-cause mortality. In subregions classified as chronically affected, the annual burden of mortality was estimated using the American Cancer Society study coefficient for the association between long-term PM2.5 exposure and all-cause mortality. The annual average PM2.5 estimates were contrasted with theoretical minimum (counterfactual) concentrations in each chronically affected subregion. Sensitivity of mortality estimates to different exposure assessments, counterfactual estimates, and concentration–response functions was evaluated. Strong La Niña and El Niño years were compared to assess the influence of interannual climatic variability.

Results: Our principal estimate for the average mortality attributable to LFS exposure was 339,000 deaths annually. In sensitivity analyses the interquartile range of all tested estimates was 260,000–600,000. The regions most affected were sub-Saharan Africa (157,000) and Southeast Asia (110,000). Estimated annual mortality during La Niña was 262,000, compared with 532,000 during El Niño.

Conclusions: Fire emissions are an important contributor to global mortality. Adverse health outcomes associated with LFS could be substantially reduced by curtailing burning of tropical rainforests, which rarely burn naturally. The large estimated influence of El Niño suggests a relationship between climate and the burden of mortality attributable to LFS.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:air pollution, biomass burning, carbon cycle, deforestation, global burden of disease, landscape fire smoke, mortality
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Pollution and contamination
Research Field:Pollution and contamination not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Air quality, atmosphere and weather
Objective Field:Air quality, atmosphere and weather not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Johnston, FH (Professor Fay Johnston)
UTAS Author:Henderson, SB (Associate Professor Sarah Henderson)
UTAS Author:Bowman, DMJS (Professor David Bowman)
ID Code:79196
Year Published:2012
Web of Science® Times Cited:412
Deposited By:Menzies Institute for Medical Research
Deposited On:2012-08-22
Last Modified:2015-08-07
Downloads:568 View Download Statistics

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