An investigation into the impact of global pollution on public health and published by The Lancet revealed that toxic air, water and soil are responsible for the untimely death of 9 million people each year, more deaths than number of people killed by war, famine, malaria and AIDS. The study which extracted data from the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Burden of Disease project, warned that pollution is so dangerous that it “threatens the continued survival of human societies
“As it accounts for 16 per cent of deaths worldwide, 15 times more than deaths from war and conflict, and three times more than deaths from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.
Most deaths are due to pollution-related illnesses , such as heart disease, strokes, and lung cancer; occurs in developing countries, especially where rapid industrialization combined with lax regulations results in increased exposure to toxic air, water and soil pollution to residents.
The United States and Japan are leading the dangerous list of the largest number of pollution deaths (such as related to fossil fuels and chemical pollution).
According to the paper, air pollution caused by cars or industrial activities is the worst of all: it is responsible for about 4.5 million deaths each year, almost half of all pollution-related deaths, a figure which according to experts will not stop increasing in the coming years. Deaths in Southeast Asia are expected to double by 2050.
Another 2.9 million deaths come from indoor air pollution from wood stoves, and there are still households that use them to warm up and cook.
The toxic water is responsible for other 1.8 million deaths each year; and is that water saturated with sewage, for example, is related to diseases such as cholera or parasitic infections.
Pollution in the workplace , which prevails in industrialized countries, also accounts for about 800,000 deaths each year and was associated with diseases such as pneumoconiosis in coal workers, bladder cancer in dye workers and asbestosis, lung cancer , mesothelioma and other cancers in workers exposed to asbestos (asbestos).
The researchers warned that even the 9 million deaths from pollution could be an underestimate of the actual number of deaths, as pollution increases every year, and its link to certain diseases, such as dementia or diabetes, is an area still little investigated by the scientific community.
Also, the unknown impact of hundreds of chemicals and pesticides widely used in the environment could increase the total number of pollution-related deaths.
Children, at-risk population
Young children are the most likely to suffer from diseases associated with pollution, since exposure during key periods of the fetus can make them sick, create a disability and even cause death (even small doses of pollutants).
The study also linked pollution deaths to economic losses, finding that, on average, pollution-related deaths led to losses of $ 4.6 billion a year, equivalent to 6.2% of global GDP.
“Pollution is much more than an environmental challenge: it is a deep 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 from all over the world, “explains Philip Landrigan, co-author of the paper.