About nine million people died in the world in 2015 of pollution-related illnesses, 16% of all deaths a year, according to a 2017 report released Friday by the British medical journal The Lancet .
Globally, pollution kills more than malaria, the AIDS virus and tuberculosis combined. It causes 9 million premature deaths a year.
According to the report, air pollution is associated with the largest number of deaths annually with 6.5 million deaths, followed by water pollution; responsible for diseases that led to 1.8 million deaths. Pollution in the workplace, due to exposure or handling of toxic substances, was linked to 0.8 million deaths.
The paper signed by about 50 scientists shows that the vast majority of pollution-related deaths (92%) occur in low- and middle-income countries. In fact, pollution disproportionately affects the poor and vulnerable groups.
“The environment is causing great suffering and disease in the world, but few people are aware of it,” said Professor Niladri Basu, one of the signatories from McGill University.
In some countries that are currently experiencing rapid industrialization, such as India, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the proportion of deaths attributable to pollution is higher.
The report also notes that deaths are caused by noncommunicable diseases caused by pollution, such as:
- heart disease;
- lung cancer;
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The most frequent pollution-related diseases are cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and chronic pulmonary obstruction.
The study’s authors point out that pollution-related illnesses have a global cost for health systems of about $4.6 trillion per year, equivalent to 6.2% of global economic output.