Air pollution is a bigger killer than smoking, according to shocking new research.
Filthy fumes from cars, lorries, factories and industrial chimneys kill an estimated 8.8 million people around the world annually – including more than 570 people a year in Malta.
The World Health Organisation said breathing in toxic air was now responsible for more deaths than cigarettes.
In Malta, pollution was said to have been responsible for an extra 576 deaths a year.
During the same year an estimated 124,000 people died from the effects of toxic fumes in Germany, 81,000 people were killed by air pollution in Italy, with around 63,665 deaths in Britain.
Experts from the University Medical Centre Mainz in Germany made the discovery using computer simulations combined with information about population density and causes of death.
Professor Thomas Munzel, who led the study, said: ‘Smoking is avoidable, but air pollution is not.’
He said the number of deaths from heart attacks, lung disease and strokes that could be attributed to pollution was much higher than expected.
He added: ‘In Europe alone, the excess number of deaths is nearly 800,000 a year and each of these deaths represents an average reduction in life expectancy of more than two years.’
In 2017, a University of Malta study found the biggest source of air pollution in the Maltese Islands was car exhaust fumes.