The latest report published in The Planetary Health of the Lancet warns that one in six deaths worldwide is due to pollution, a result that has remained virtually unchanged since the last analysis in 2015. The book also alludes to the fact that 92% of deaths and the greatest burden economic losses This problem occurs in low- and middle-income countries.
According to Richard Fuller, lead author of a report published this week in The Planetary Health of the Lancet. In this book, it is shown that pollution was responsible for nine million deaths in 2019, i.e. one in six deaths was due to this problem.
Fuller notes that “despite serious health, social and economic consequences, pollution prevention is largely neglected on the international development agenda”.
The new report is an update of one published in the same journal in 2015. It highlights that the number of deaths from pollution sources associated with extreme poverty (such as indoor air pollution and pollution water) decreased. However, deaths attributable to industrial pollution (from ambient air and chemical pollution) have increased.
According to Fuller, “Despite a well-documented increase in public concern about pollution and its health effects, attention to these issues and funding have increased minimally since 2015.”.
The greatest threat to human and planetary health
“Pollution is the greatest threat to human and planetary health and endangers sustainability modern societies. Preventing it can also curb climate changesays Philip Landrigan, co-author of the report and director of the Global Public Health Program and the Global Pollution Observatory at Boston College. For this reason, Landrigan points out, the current report “calls for a massive and rapid transition away from all fossil fuels and their replacement with clean and renewable energies”.
The Commission Lancet The 2017 Pollution and Health Survey, which used data from the 2015 Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study, found that pollution was responsible for around nine million deaths, or 16% of all deaths worldwide.
The new report provides updated estimates of the health effects of pollution, based on the most recent 2019 GBD data and methodological updates, as well as an assessment of trends since 2000.
Of the nine million deaths attributable to pollution in 2019, air pollution (both household and ambient) remains responsible for the highest number of deaths, with 6.67 million worldwide. Water contamination was responsible for 1.36 million premature deaths. Lead contributed to 900,000 deaths, followed by toxic occupational hazards with 870,000 deaths.
The decline in deaths from traditional pollution since 2000 (domestic air pollution from solid fuels and unsafe water) is most evident in Africa. This can be explained by improved water supply and sanitation, antibiotics and treatments, and cleaner fuels, according to the authors.
Industrial pollution and the aging population
However, this decline in mortality has been offset by a substantial increase in deaths from exposure to industrial pollution – such as air pollution, lead pollution and other forms of chemical pollution – in all regions over the past 20 years. This is particularly evident in Southeast Asia, where rising levels of industrial pollution are compounded by an aging population and increasing numbers of exposed people.
Ambient air pollution was responsible for 4.5 million deaths in 2019, compared to 4.2 million deaths in 2015 and 2.9 million in 2000. Deaths from hazardous chemical pollutants rose from 0.9 million in 2000 to 1.7 million in 2015 and 1.8 million in 2019, with 900,000 deaths attributable to lead contamination in 2019.
Overall, deaths from current pollution have increased by 66% over the past two decades, from an estimated 3.8 million deaths in 2000 to 6.3 million in 2019. The number of deaths from chemical pollutants is probably underestimated because only a small number of commercially produced chemicals have been adequately tested for safety or toxicity.
Losses and inequalities
The report highlights that excess pollution deaths caused economic losses totaling $4.6 trillion in 2019, or 6.2% of global economic output.
It also highlights the deep inequality of pollution, with 92% of pollution-related deaths and the greatest burden of resulting economic losses in low- and middle-income countries.
The authors conclude with eight recommendations. Among them are calls for the creation of an independent science and policy panel, in the style of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as well as increased funding for pollution control. by governments, independent donors and philanthropists, and to improving pollution monitoring and data collection.
International organizations should also endorse and establish a better connection between science and policy on pollution, as well as those dealing with climate and biodiversity, primarily on chemicals, waste and air pollution. .
“It is clear that pollution is a global threat and that its causes, dispersion and health effects transcend local borders and call for a global response. Global action needed on all major pollutants todaysays Rachael Kupka, co-author and executive director of the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution.