The dangers of international trade

  • Plane

The perils of globalisation have been well-publicised and, as the Brexit negotiations are about to begin, there are warnings about possible tariff problems, but a new academic study has revealed an entirely unexpected threat.

The University of East Anglia (UEA) has revealed for the first time the global scale of premature deaths related to air pollution from international trade.

The effects of world trade on air pollutant emissions and air quality have been investigated regionally, but this study presents for the first time a combined global assessment on health impact.

Published in the journal Nature, it estimates premature mortality linked to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution as a result of atmospheric transport and the production and consumption of goods and services in 13 regions — encompassing 228 countries — of the world.

The study focused on deaths from heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Linking four state-of-the-art global data models, the international research team estimates that of the 3.45 million global premature deaths related to PM2.5 pollution in 2007, about 12%, or 411,100, were related to air pollutants emitted in a different region of the world.

About 22%, or 762,400, were associated with goods and services produced in one region for consumption in another.

Study co-author Dabo Guan, a professor in climate change economics at UEA’s School of International Development, explained: “International trade is further globalising the issue of air pollution mortality by allowing production and consumption activities to be physically separated.”

In the global economy, he continued, the goods and services consumed in one region may entail production of large quantities of air pollution, and related mortality, in others.


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