International Journal of Biometeorology

, Volume 62, Issue 11, pp 2063–2064 | Cite as

Who is legally responsible for deaths caused by air pollution?

  • Ana SanturtúnEmail author
  • Alejandro Villar
  • María T. Zarrabeitia


A person’s death is deemed unnatural when it is the result of an external force. This definition, however, does not apply when the cause of death is a respiratory or cardiovascular process triggered by a high concentration of an air pollutant, even if other deaths from toxicological causes (poisonings, overdoses, etc.) are. The distinction between natural and unnatural cause of death, although not internationally standardized, is critical in determining wrongfulness and liability, which in turn can have financial and/or legal repercussions. Even though the World Health Organization and other medical and scientific organizations have shown that air pollution contributes to several million deaths every year, there are currently no practical means to determine whether a person was subjected to high concentrations of atmospheric pollution before their death; indeed, the ability to find evidence of this type of exposition could prove very interesting from a forensic standpoint.


Air pollution Mortality Liability Evidences 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© ISB 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Unit of Legal Medicine, Department of Physiology and PharmacologyUniversity of CantabriaSantanderSpain
  2. 2.Ticnor SLSantanderSpain

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