Pollution around the globe, from contaminated air to tainted water, contributes to an estimated 9 million deaths annually, according to a new study published in the medical journal The Lancet. The pollution is linked to heart conditions, strokes, and lung cancer, among other health issues, it said.
This would mean that pollution is responsible for one in six deaths worldwide every year — three times more deaths than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined, The Washington Post reported. More than 90 percent of the fatalities occurred in poor or middle-income countries. Rapidly industrializing nations, including India, China, and Pakistan, accounted for a quarter of these deaths.
“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,” Philip Landrigan, a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York who co-led the study, told Reuters.
The study analyzed epidemiological data from more than 130 countries over the last few decades. The findings build on other recent studies estimating loss of life from pollution, including a 2016 World Health Organization report that estimated pollution is behind 12.6 million deaths each year.
“These are the best numbers that we have available to us,” Gina McCarthy, a former Environmental Protection Agency administrator who was not involved in the study, told The Washington Post. “And even if they’re off by a factor of 10, you’re still talking about huge, huge impacts. It’s very clear if you go to other countries and it’s clear if you go to some of our own communities that they are being held back because of the impact of pollution on their kids and their elderly.”