Pollution linked to one in six deaths worldwide
Pollution has been linked to an estimated nine million deaths in 2015 – equivalent to one-sixth of all fatalities that year, according to a report published in The Lancet
Almost all of these occurred in low- and middle-income nations, with pollution linked to a quarter of all deaths in the worst affected countries like Chad and Madagascar.
It was determined that air pollution was the biggest contributor after being linked to an estimated 6.5 million deaths, followed by water pollution, which was connected with 1.8 million.
Most of these were due to non-infectious diseases such as lung cancer, strokes and heart disease, with pollution responsible for three times as many deaths as AIDs, tuberculosis and malaria combined.
“Pollution is much more than an environmental challenge – it is a profound and pervasive threat that affects many aspects of human health and well-being,” study co-lead, professor Philip Landrigan, said.
The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York conducted the research over two years in conjunction with The Lancet and the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution.
It was found that some of the greatest numbers of pollution-related deaths take place in rapidly industrialising countries, with China and India recording more than any other in 2015, with 2.5 million and 1.8 million respectively.
The researchers concluded that children face the highest risks from pollution because small exposures to chemicals can result in lifelong disease, and premature death.
It was also found that contact with contaminated air, water and soil kills more people than a high-sodium diet, obesity, alcohol, road accidents, or child and maternal malnutrition.
In addition, the welfare losses due to pollution are estimated at $4.6trn (£3.5trn) each year, approximately 6.2% of global economic output, with pollution control in the US returning $200bn annually since 1980.
"Despite its far-reaching effects on health, the economy and the environment, pollution has been neglected in the international assistance and global health agendas, while some control strategies have been deeply underfunded,” Landrigan continued.
“Our goal is to raise global awareness of the importance of pollution, and mobilise the political will needed to tackle it.”