In recent years, airplane crashes have killed about a thousand people annually, whereas plane emissions kill about ten thousand people each year, researchers say.
Unregulated emissions from planes flying above 3,000 feet are thought to be responsible for most of these deaths.
Airplane exhaust fumes contain a variety of air pollutants, including sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.
Many of these particles of pollution, known as particulates, are smaller than the width of a human hair and become wedged deep in the lungs.
American researchers used a computer model that brought together records of flight paths, the average amount of fuel burned during flights, and their estimated emissions.
The model was used to track where pollutants were likely to fall to the surface, where they may be inhaled.
The team estimated that about 8,000 deaths a year result from pollution from planes at cruising altitude, about 35,000 feet (10,668 metres), whereas about 2,000 deaths result from pollution emitted during takeoffs and landings.