Pollution Killed 9M People Worldwide in 2015: Report

According to the findings of new research, pollution caused or contributed to the deaths of about 9 million people worldwide in 2015, accounting for disease attributable to about one out of every six deaths. 

Pollution of all types, including air, water, lead and other pollutions, was responsible for three times more deaths than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, and 15 times more than from all wars and other forms of violence, according to a report published last week in the medical journal The Lancet.

The study was conducted by The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, which addresses the full health and economic costs of air, water and soil pollution, in a report compiled by more than 40 international health and environmental authors.

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The commission found that pollution is the largest environmental cause of death and disease, accounting for 16% of all deaths worldwide.

Disease associated with air pollution accounted for the most deaths in 2015, at 6.5 million deaths, including heart and lung related deaths. Air pollution related deaths were also attributed to heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

A study published last month indicated air pollution, especially particulate matter, increases a person’s risk of suffering certain types of stroke and a higher risk of hospitalization after suffering a stroke.

Water pollution was linked to 1.8 million deaths. Researchers concluded the deaths were mostly from gastrointestinal and parasitic infections. Other pollutions also caused disease and infection, including workplace-related pollution and lead pollution.

Workplace-related pollution contributed to 800,000 deaths. Illnesses included pneumoconiosis, lung disease in coal workers from inhaling irritants, bladder cancer in dye workers, asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma and other cancers in workers exposed to asbestos.

Lead pollution contributed to more than 500,000 deaths, including those from high blood pressure, kidney failure, and heart disease.

Researchers in this latest study also indicate that many chemical pollutants are still unidentified, meaning the report likely underestimates the true extent of pollution as it doesn’t account for disease and death related to unidentified chemical pollutants.

About 92% of all pollution-related deaths were in low and middle income countries, according to the study. Countries experiencing rapid industrialization, like Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan, Kenya, and Madagascar were greatly affected. Prior research has found that 90% of the world’s population lives in areas with poor air quality.

Deaths in those countries accounted for 1 in 4 fatalities linked to pollution. China and India had the most deaths linked to pollution, with 4.3 million deaths combined.

Researchers warned environmental pollution deserves the “full attention of international leaders, civil society, health professionals and people around the world.” They warned that pollution is a serious threat to humans which affects human health and well being, causing serious illness and disease.

The World Health Organization agrees, and in one of its own previous reports indicated environmental pollution causes more than 1.7 million child deaths each year, most of which are preventable. In fact, air pollution and water pollution are two of the top five global causes of death among children under the age of five.


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