Pollution is the cause of one in six deaths worldwide, according to a scientific study.
That’s about 9 million deaths a year from contaminated air, water and soil – more than war and malaria.
Moreover, pollution ends the lives of more people sooner than terrorism, HIV, tuberculosis, drugs or alcohol.
The study, published in The Lancet Planetary Health, notes that pollution kills roughly the same number of people as smoking. About 75% of these deaths were caused by air pollution alone. Toxic chemicals cause nearly 2 million deaths, with around 900,000 of them from lead pollution.
Unsafe water still kills 1.4 million people a year, but that number is falling as sanitation conditions improve.
More than 90% of total pollution deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries that have fewer resources to make pollution a priority.
“We didn’t shout from the streets saying, ‘Look at this!’ strong enough,” said lead author Richard Fuller, of Switzerland’s Global Health and Pollution Alliance.
The economic impact of pollution deaths is approximately $9 million per minute.
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Since 2000, deaths from toxic air and chemicals have increased by 66%.
According to the study, pollution, climate change, deforestation and the destruction of wildlife and ecosystems “are the main global environmental problems of our time. These problems are intertwined and the solutions to each will benefit the others. [But] we cannot continue to ignore pollution. We step back. »
Philip Landrigan, a Boston College professor and lead author of the analysis, said: “Pollution remains the greatest existential threat to human and planetary health. Pollution prevention can also slow climate change – achieving a double benefit for planetary health – and our report calls for a massive and rapid transition from all fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.
Fuller said it was imperative to make this information public and widely seen.
“It drives communities to want to do something and to yell and yell at their politicians. Everything can roll from there,” he said.
“Pollution has generally been seen as a local problem,” said co-author Rachel Kupka, also from the Swiss organization GAHP.
“However, it is clear that pollution is a global threat. Global action on all major modern pollutants is needed.