9 million people dying of pollution every year: Study

A team of scientists announced Tuesday that worsening outdoor air pollution and lethal lead poisoning have kept worldwide fatalities from environmental contamination at an estimated 9 million per year since 2015, despite modest gains in other areas.

According to the scientists’ examination of data on worldwide mortality and pollution levels, air pollution from industrial operations and urbanization caused a 7% rise in pollution-related fatalities from 2015 to 2019.

“We’re sitting in the stew pot, gently burning,” said Richard Fuller, co-author of the report and executive director of the worldwide NGO Pure Earth. “We haven’t given (environmental pollution) any priority,” unlike climate change, malaria, or HIV.

An previous version of the study, released in 2017, projected the annual death toll from pollution to be over 9 million — or nearly one in every six deaths globally — and the cost to the global economy to be up to $4.6 trillion. In terms of worldwide mortality, this puts pollution on par with smoking. COVID-19, on the other hand, has killed around 6.7 million people worldwide since the outbreak began.

The scientists collected 2019 data from the Global Burden of Disease, an ongoing project at the University of Washington that measures total pollution exposure and predicts mortality risk, for their most recent analysis, which was published in the online journal Lancet Planetary Health.

The new study digs further into the sources of pollution, distinguishing between conventional pollutants like indoor smoking and sewage and more contemporary pollutants like industrial air pollution and harmful chemicals. Here are a few crucial points to remember:

Traditional contaminants are causing fewer deaths across the world. However, they continue to be a big issue in Africa and other developing nations. According to statistics adjusted for population, Chad, the Central African Republic, and Niger have the highest pollution-related mortality due to contaminated water and soil, as well as unclean indoor air.

In certain areas, state measures to reduce indoor air pollution and enhance cleanliness have contributed to reduce mortality rates. Between 2000 and 2019, associated mortality in Ethiopia and Nigeria fell by two-thirds as a result of these measures. Meanwhile, the Indian government began distributing gas stove hookups to replace wood-burning stoves in 2016.

Exposure to contemporary pollutants such as heavy metals, agrochemicals, and fossil fuel emissions has resulted in a 66 percent increase in deaths since 2000, according to co-author Rachael Kupka, executive director of the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution in New York.

Some large capital cities, such as Bangkok, China, and Mexico City, have experienced some progress when it comes to outdoor air pollution, according to the authors. However, pollution levels in smaller cities continue to rise.

Based on their findings on mortality adjusted for population, the research provided a list of the ten nations most affected by pollution-related fatalities.

Chad, Central African Republic, Niger, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, North Korea, Lesotho, Bulgaria, and Burkina Faso are the top ten countries.

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