The survival of human societies is under threat, with 9 million killed every year due to pollution, as reported by the Guardian.
Those were the findings of a study, which found that pollution to air, soils, and water has contributed to at least 9 million deaths every year. It also reports that it is costing the globe trillions of euro, every single year.
Cause of disease:
The study found that these pollutants cause diseases which contribute to 1 in 6 human deaths around the world. That means that deaths caused by pollution is over three times more than deaths to Tuberculosis, Malaria, and Aids!
A predominant amount of these fatalities occur in poorer countries. Some countries, such as India, have recorded over a quarter of deaths being down to pollution. This is not only killing people but greatly draining the economies of these countries.
The top ten, of countries with deaths caused by pollution, featured Japan and the US. The main causes in these nations are fossil fuels and chemical pollution. It is not all bad news though, as scientists say that improvements in recent years have shown that pollution is a battle that can be won. The authors of the Commission on Pollution and Health say it is one of the greatest challenges facing the human race.
“Pollution is one of the great existential challenges of the (human-dominated) Anthropocene era,” they said upon its publishing on Friday.
“Pollution endangers the stability of the Earth’s support systems and threatens the continuing survival of human societies.”, it continued.
“We fear that with nine million deaths a year, we are pushing the envelope on the amount of pollution the Earth can carry.”,said Professor Philip Landrigan, of the Icahn School of Medicine.
He said that air pollution death numbers in Asia, suggest that numbers are increasing at such a fast rate, they will be doubled by 2050. Mr. Landrigan also said the scale of deaths has not surprised the researchers, but admitted there were two major shocks. First was the rate at which modern pollution deaths are increasing and the other the rate at which traditional pollution rates are decreasing.
“Secondly, we hadn’t really got our minds around how much pollution is not counted in the present tally...The current figure of nine million is almost certainly an underestimate, probably by several million.”, he said.
Effects on human health
The numbers are not definite as of yet, as scientists are learning more each day about the effects of pollution on human health. They are now discovering links between crippling and potentially fatal diseases to these toxins. A lack of data on toxic metals meant that this was also excluded from the analysis.
The study also found that pollution had also accounted for welfare losses of up to $4.6 tn per year, which is the same as 6% of the world’s GDP.
“Those costs are so massive they can drag down the economy of countries that are trying to get ahead...We always hear ‘we can’t afford to clean up pollution’ – I say we can’t afford not to clean it up.”, said Landrigan.
As part of the report, data was combined from the World Health Organisation and other sources, which led to the discovery that air pollution was the leading killer. It found that it lead to strokes, heart disease, lung cancer and many other illnesses.
Pollution caused by vehicles, factories, and others sources outside, contributed to 4.5 million deaths per year. Indoor pollution, from fires etc, was the cause of 2.9 million deaths. Next on the list was water pollution. It was found to contribute to 1.8 million deaths each year. Most of which were caused by parasitic infections and gastrointestinal diseases.
Other forms of pollution, such as from the workplace, tobacco, and exposure to carcinogens and toxins, were found to cause over 800,000 fatalities. They contributed to diseases such as bladder cancer, pneumoconiosis and much more. Lead pollution meanwhile, caused over 500,000 deaths.
Worst affected countries.
The worst affected countries were found to have 92% of deaths, attributable to pollution. These countries were mainly low income and in the process of rapid industrial growth. Somalia was reported to have the highest rate of pollution-related deaths. India was not far behind, with the highest number of deaths per year at 2.5million. China came in behind India, with 1.8m, followed by Russia.
With regards pollution from the workplace, the UK appeared on the list. The featured alongside Germany and Japan.
The report was produced by a group of over 40 researchers from all across the globe. It received funding from the UN, US and the EU.
“This is an immensely important piece of work highlighting the impact that environmental pollution has on death and disease...This is an unacceptable loss of lives and human development potential.”, said Dr. Maria Neira, the WHO director of public health and the environment.
“No country is unaffected by pollution. Human activities, including industrialization, urbanisation, and globalisation, are all drivers of pollution. We hope the commission findings will persuade leaders at the national, state, provincial and city levels to make pollution a priority. Current and future generations deserve a pollution-free world.”, said the editor-in-chief of the Lancet, Dr. Richard Horton, and the executive editor, Dr. Pamela Das, said:
Co-lead of the Commission, Richard Fuller of clean-up charity Pure Earth, said prevention can be cost-effective and pollution eliminated completely.
“Pollution can be eliminated and pollution prevention can be highly cost-effective, helping to improve health and extend lifespan, while boosting the economy.”, he said.
“That puts the lie to the argument that pollution control kills jobs and stifles the economy.”, Landrigan added.
Now is not the time to go backward in the US...Environmental protection and a strong economy go hand in hand. We also need to help other countries, not only for the benefit it will bring them, but because pollution knows no boundaries.”, said Gina McCarthy, former head of the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Landrigan continued by saying the greatest concern is the unknown. The impact of pesticides and chemicals to health is a real worry he added.
“I worry we have created a situation where people are exposed to chemicals that are eroding intelligence or impairing reproduction or weakening their immune system, but we have not yet been smart enough to make the connection between the exposure and the outcome because it is subtle.”, he said.
“Pollution has not received nearly as much attention as climate change, or Aids or malaria – it is the most underrated health problem in the world,” he concluded.