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Report reveals impact of pollution, with 9m deaths worldwide

Published on 20/10/17 at 10:46am

A new report published in The Lancet has revealed that all forms of pollution are linked with 9 million deaths worldwide in 2015 alone. Air pollution was responsible for more than two thirds of these deaths.

The worst hit countries were the poorest countries around the world, which have to contend with ‘traditional’ pollution, such as unsafe water supply, as well as more ‘modern’ pollution due to industry. In Bangladesh, Somalia and Chad, over a quarter of all deaths were due to pollution.

In the UK, 8% of deaths of deaths were linked to pollution, with 50,000 estimated in 2015. Of all 188 countries measured, this places the UK in 55th place out of 188 – making it considerably worse than almost all Western European countries.

Overall, pollution is a major contributor to global deaths – greater than smoking, AIDS/malaria/TB combined, and war. Many of those living in areas of the worst air pollution are more likely to suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which require constant treatment.

The researchers estimated a welfare cost from pollution being $4.6 trillion every year. The cost places a large burden on middle-income countries that amounts to 7% of GDP, compared with 1.7% in higher-income countries.

Professor Philip Landrigan, from the Icahn School of Medicine in New York City, who co-led the investigation, said: “Pollution is much more than an environmental challenge – it is a profound and pervasive threat that affects many aspects of human health and well-being.

“It deserves the full attention of international leaders, civil society, health professionals, and people around the world. Despite its far-reaching effects on health, the economy and the environment, pollution has been neglected in the international assistance and the global health agendas, and some control strategies have been deeply underfunded.

“Our goal is to raise global awareness of the importance of pollution, and mobilise the political will needed to tackle it, by providing the most in-depth estimates of pollution and health available.”

Whether the political will is there or not remains open to question, with Trump pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement recently.

Ben Hargreaves

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