Pollution is responsible for one in six deaths each year, and it’s getting worse

one of the world Deadliest killers lurk around us in the air we breathe and the products we consume. Yes, we are talking about pollution.

And it doesn’t go away. A new report published Tuesday in Planetary Health Lancet finds that pollution is still killing a staggering number of people around the world, predominantly in low- and middle-income countries. But pollution is a serious threat to the health of everyone on the planet, the report’s authors insist.

“People in the United States should be concerned about these findings,” says Philip Landrigan, co-author of the report and director of the Boston College Global Pollution Observatory. Reverse.

What’s new – The recent findings from the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health are actually an update to a report on pollution published five years ago, when researchers first looked at premature deaths from pollution.

The 2017 report found that pollution was the most important environmental risk factor globally for human mortality. Sadly, that fact hasn’t changed at all over the past five years, and has somehow gotten worse, according to the new report, which uses data from the 2019 Global Burden of Disease, Injury, and Risk Factor Study to assess the impact of contamination on human health.

The report’s most damning conclusion: nine million people worldwide die prematurely each year due to pollution. The World Health Organization reports that there were 55.4 million deaths in 2019, which means that pollution causes almost one in six deaths worldwide. More than 90 percent of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, predominantly in parts of Asia and Africa.

“Than [the report] shows is that the number of deaths caused by pollution has not changed in four years,” says Landrigan.

India and China lead the way, with more than 2 million pollution deaths in each country in 2019. But the US recorded 215,000 pollution-related deaths each year, according to Landrigan. Pollution-related deaths in the US average 43.6 deaths per 100,000, considerably higher than other high-income countries like Finland, which averaged 29 deaths per 100,000 people.

One figure in the report compares deaths from pollution to other causes of death.Fuller et al.

“Air and water pollution have improved a lot since the EPA was formed in the 1970s, but we still have a long way to go in the United States, and chemical pollution is quietly getting worse,” Landrigan adds.

There are some bright spots in the report, highlighting that deaths from traditional pollution, such as household pollution related to lack of clean water or air pollution from cooking smoke, have decreased due to major government and charity initiatives. .

But on the other hand, the increase in pollution deaths due to modern pollution resulting from industrialization has increased by 66 percent since 2000, effectively offsetting the reduction in deaths from traditional pollution.

Ambient or ambient air pollution is the leading cause of death, causing 6.5 million deaths each year. The remaining deaths are due to lead poisoning, a major problem for children, and chemical contamination. The report also found significant gender differences in pollution-related deaths. Women and children tend to die from water pollution, while men die more from air pollution and lead.

In short: global pollution is a public health threat “greater than war, terrorism, malaria, HIV, tuberculosis, drugs and alcohol,” according to the report.

Why is it happening? In addition to highlighting the staggering death toll from pollution, the report also reveals how little the global community has failed to act in the face of such a serious public health threat since the last report in 2017. Rachael Kupka, report co-author and executive director of the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution, says Reverse the response to the 2017 Lancet report has been “anemic”.

“We alerted the world to this huge problem five years ago. Not much has really happened,” Kupka says.

Pollution death rates are increasing in Southeast Asia and South Asia.Fuller et al.

In the absence of urgent action by governments and agencies like the United Nations, the pollution problem will only get worse. According to Landrigan, deaths from air pollution are projected to double by 2050.

Compared to higher-income countries in North America and the EU, low- and middle-income countries have seen comparatively higher death rates from pollution. The reasons behind rising pollution death rates in low- and middle-income countries are complicated, but have to do primarily with increased industrialization in these countries, including increased reliance on fossil fuels, and lack of control. of pollution, as well as insufficient international funding to curb pollution.

Pollution is also often seen as an environmental issue rather than a health issue. It lacks the significant funding and political attention given to other public health issues, despite the fact that the latest Lancet The report finds that pollution is a “major risk factor” for non-infectious diseases on a par with smoking, substance abuse and unhealthy diets.

“We’re trying to bring attention to this fact and say this is really a public health scale problem, and it’s actually getting worse,” adds Kupka.

Lead poisoning can also cause serious cognitive damage in children. Children with lead concentrations above five micrograms per deciliter of blood often score three to five points lower on IQ tests than children with lower blood levels. According to the report, more than 800 million children have blood lead concentrations that exceed these levels.

“For those kids, theirs is really a health emergency for them,” says Kupka.

Lead poisoning not only affects individuals but society as a whole. The report’s authors claim that lead-related IQ problems contribute to nearly $1 trillion in global economic losses.

“We cannot continue to ignore pollution. We are going backwards,” the report warns gravely.

One figure from the study shows the average blood lead concentrations in children around the world. Lead poisoning is one of the main contributors to pollution-related deaths. Fuller et al.

Whats Next – Despite the grim prognosis, there are ways forward to reduce the staggering number of deaths from pollution, according to experts. First things first: We need to bring much more attention and funding to the issue of pollution, and fast. There are few global agreements to specifically address pollution efforts, making efforts to curb pollution even more difficult.

“The greatest need is for policymakers within countries and in UN agencies to make pollution prevention a high priority and dedicate serious funding to pollution control,” says Landrigan.

In addition to increased funding, Kupka says governments in low- and middle-income countries must be able to prioritize pollution “within their own development agendas.” One way to achieve this is to bring together leaders from various government ministries to discuss and address pollution, a model developed by the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution known as the Health and Pollution Action Plan.

But it will be hard to eliminate pollution-related deaths if we don’t focus on their key source: fossil fuels. The authors of the report are clear: we must devote the same urgency to tackling pollution that we devote to the climate crisis, recognizing that pollution, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels, also contributes to global warming.

Lasting control of pollution, and prevention of the diseases it causes, will require a massive government-supported transition from gas, oil and coal to clean renewable energy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.