Researchers used data from a model that simulates how the atmosphere interacts with chemicals from energy generation, industry, traffic and agriculture sources, which they applied to a new model of global exposure and death rates and to population and geographic data from the World Health Organization.
Although it was previously thought that emissions were responsible for around 40,000 deaths in the United Kingdom, new figures suggest it is closer to 64,000, just 18 per cent less than the 78,000 deaths caused by tobacco.
The UK's early-death rate from air pollution of 64,000 is clearly concerning - although it is lower than for many other European countries.More news: U.S. dollar drops amid rising sterling
"In Europe alone, the excess number of deaths is almost 800,000 a year, and each of these deaths represents an average reduction in life expectancy of more than two years", Münzel added.
Smoking is avoidable, but air pollution is not, he added.
Europe seems to be more bad than the other countries of the world, with 133 of every 100,000 deaths related to air pollution, as compared to 120 out of 100,000 deaths internationally.
"New data has become available for fine particulate matter indicating that the hazardous health impact of PM2.5 are much larger than assumed previously", said Lelieveld. Excess death rates were particularly high in eastern European countries, such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Ukraine, with over 200 each year per 100,000 of the population.
The researchers said national governments and worldwide agencies must take urgent action to reduce air pollution, including re-evaluating legislation on air quality and lowering the EU's current limits on the annual average levels of air pollution to match the World Health Organization guidelines.More news: Man uses mobile phone as shield in alleged bow and arrow attack
"The call for reassessment of current United Kingdom and European Union air quality regulations seem highly warranted".
"Governments and worldwide agencies must take urgent action to reduce air pollution", said Professor Thomas Münzel.
"The high number of extra deaths caused by air pollution in Europe is explained by the combination of poor air quality and dense population, which leads to exposure that is among the highest in the world", Professor Jos Lelieveld, the study's co-author said. Air pollution is known to cause such diseases, including increased blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart attacks and heart failure.
At the country-level, researchers said mortality rates (excess deaths per 100,000 people) associated with air pollution was 154 in Germany, 136 in Italy, 150 in Poland, 98 in the United Kingdom and 105 in France. "While much of the push for a rapid shift to clean, renewable energy economy rightfully focuses on climate change, we should also remember that moving to wind, solar and geothermal systems will also eliminate all the fossil fuel-emitted air pollution that is cutting many thousands of lives short every day", Edwards added.
Fine dust particles in the air are particularly risky to health because they penetrate deep into the lungs and may even pass into the bloodstream.More news: Right Struff: Ailing Zverev toppled, Djokovic rained out at Indian Wells