Children with respiratory diseases receive treatment at a hospital in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China. Photo: China Daily / Reuters

By Damian Carrington
20 October 2017

(The Guardian) – Pollution kills at least nine million people and costs trillions of dollars every year, according to the most comprehensive global analysis to date, which warns the crisis “threatens the continuing survival of human societies”.

Toxic air, water, soils and workplaces are responsible for the diseases that kill one in every six people around the world, the landmark report found, and the true total could be millions higher because the impact of many pollutants are poorly understood. The deaths attributed to pollution are triple those from Aids, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.

The vast majority of the pollution deaths occur in poorer nations and in some, such as India, Chad, and Madagascar, pollution causes a quarter of all deaths. The international researchers said this burden is a hugely expensive drag on developing economies.

Rich nations still have work to do to tackle pollution: the US and Japan are in the top 10 for deaths from “modern” forms of pollution, i.e., fossil fuel-related air pollution and chemical pollution. But the scientists said that the big improvements that have been made in developed nations in recent decades show that beating pollution is a winnable battle if there is the political will.

Deaths per year due to pollution, in millions, 1990-2015. Deaths from modern pollution are rising, but traditional pollution deaths are falling. Graphic: The Guardian

“Pollution is one of the great existential challenges of the [human-dominated] Anthropocene era,” concluded the authors of the Commission on Pollution and Health, published in the Lancet on Friday. “Pollution endangers the stability of the Earth’s support systems and threatens the continuing survival of human societies.”

Prof Philip Landrigan, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, US, who co-led the commission, said: “We fear that with nine million deaths a year, we are pushing the envelope on the amount of pollution the Earth can carry.” For example, he said, air pollution deaths in south-east Asia are on track to double by 2050. [more]

Global pollution kills 9m a year and threatens 'survival of human societies'


Deaths from pollution dwarf many other major causes, including tobacco smoking, AIDS, malaria, TB, and war. Graphic: The Guardian

ABSTRACT: Pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and premature death in the world today. Diseases caused by pollution were responsible for an estimated 9 million premature deaths in 2015—16% of all deaths worldwide—three times more deaths than from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined and 15 times more than from all wars and other forms of violence. In the most severely affected countries, pollution-related disease is responsible for more than one death in four.

The Lancet Commission on pollution and health

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