Pollution kills 9 million people every year

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Worsening outdoor air pollution and toxic lead poisoning have kept the number of deaths from environmental contamination worldwide at around 9 million a year since 2015 – thwarting modest progress in pollution control elsewhere, a team of scientists reported on Tuesday.

Air pollution from industrial processes along with urbanization led to a 7% increase in pollution-related deaths from 2015 to 2019, according to scientists’ analysis of data on global mortality and levels of pollution. pollution.

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“We’re sitting in the pot and burning slowly,” said Richard Fuller, co-author of the study and head of the global nonprofit organization Pure Earth. But unlike climate change, malaria or HIV, “we haven’t paid much attention to (environmental pollution).”

An earlier version of the work published in 2017 also estimated the death toll from pollution at around 9 million a year – roughly one in six deaths worldwide – and the cost to the global economy at 4.6 trillion. dollars per year. This puts pollution on par with smoking in terms of deaths worldwide. Covid-19, by comparison, has killed an estimated 6.7 million people worldwide since the pandemic began.

For their most recent study, published in the online journal Lancet Planetary Health, the authors analyzed 2019 data from the Global Burden of Disease, an ongoing study led by the University of Washington that assesses overall exposure to pollution and calculates the risk of mortality.

The new analysis looks more specifically at the causes of pollution – separating traditional contaminants such as indoor smoke or sewage from more modern pollutants, such as industrial air pollution and toxic chemicals. Here are some of the main takeaways:

WATER AND INDOOR AIR

Deaths from traditional pollutants are declining globally. But they remain a major problem in Africa and some other developing countries. Contaminated water and soil and dirty indoor air put Chad, the Central African Republic and Niger as the three countries with the most pollution-related deaths, according to population-adjusted data.

State programs to reduce indoor air pollution and improved sanitation have helped reduce the death toll in some places. In Ethiopia and Nigeria, these efforts reduced the number of related deaths by two-thirds between 2000 and 2019. Meanwhile, the Indian government began in 2016 to offer to replace wood stoves with wood stove connections. gas.

MODERN POLLUTANTS

Deaths from exposure to modern pollutants such as heavy metals, agrochemicals and fossil fuel emissions are “skyrocketing”, rising 66% since 2000, said co-author Rachael Kupka, executive director of the New York-based Global Health and Pollution Alliance. .

When it comes to outdoor air pollution, some major capital cities have had some success, including Bangkok, China, and Mexico City, the authors said. But in smaller towns, pollution levels continue to climb.

HIGHEST POLLUTION-RELATED DEATHS

The study offered a list of the 10 countries most affected by pollution-related deaths, based on their findings on population-adjusted mortality.

1. Chad; 2. Central African Republic; 3.Niger; 4. Solomon Islands; 5. Somalia; 6. South Africa; 7. North Korea; 8. Lesotho; 9. Bulgaria; 10.Burkina Faso

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