PARIS: People in poorer countries are disproportionately suffering from air pollution spewed from the increasing scourge of fires in forests and fields around the world, according to new research published on Wednesday.
Landscape fires include blazes in forests, shrub, grass, pastures and agricultural lands, whether planned or uncontrolled such as the wildfires that have ravaged countries including Algeria, Canada and Greece this year.
They generate smoke that can travel up to thousands of kilometres, creating public health risks, including increases in mortality and worsening of heart and lung-related illnesses. Ambient air pollution caused some 4.5 million deaths in 2019, according to a study published in Lancet Planetary Health last year.
In a new study published in the journal Nature, researchers used data, machine learning and modelling to estimate global daily quantities of fine particles called PM2.5 and surface ozone concentrations emitted by landscape fires between 2000 and 2019.
The annual air pollution from landscape fires in low-income countries was around four times higher than in rich nations, they found, with central Africa, Southeast Asia, South America and Siberia experiencing the highest levels. Increasing temperatures linked to human-caused climate change are increasing the risk of fire.