Pollution from ships, in the form of tiny airborne particles, kills at least 60,000 people each year, says a new study.
Unless action is taken quickly to address the problem – such as by switching to cleaner fuels – the death toll will climb, researchers warn.
The team predicts that premature deaths due to ultra-fine particles thrown out by ships’ exhausts will increase by 40% globally by 2012.
Ships release an estimated 1.2 million to 1.6 million metric tons of tiny airborne particles each year. The tiny particles are less than 10 micrometres in diameter and invisible to the human eye. They are produced from the combustion of shipping fuel which releases the ultra-fine soot. The soot contains carbon particles, sulphur and nitrogen oxides.
Tiny airborne particles are linked to premature deaths worldwide, and are believed to cause heart and lung failures. The particles get into the lungs and are small enough to pass through tissues and enter the blood. They can then trigger inflammations which eventually cause the heart and lungs to fail.