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A new study has found that polluting causes 9 million deaths each year.
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A new study has found that polluting causes 9 million deaths each year.

According to a study that looked at global mortality and pollution levels, an estimated 9 million people die each year from all forms of pollution according to The Lancet Planetary Health journal.

A spike in toxic lead poisoning and worsening air pollution countered the modest progress made in tackling pollution elsewhere. This has kept global deaths from environmental contamination at 9 million per year since 2015, according to scientists analyzing 2019 data from the Global Burden of Disease, which is an ongoing study by the University of Washington that assesses overall pollution exposure.

Pollution is a “existential threat to human and planetary health” that jeopardizes modern societies’ sustainability, according to the study. The study also found that it has a greater impact on global health than war, terrorism, malaria and HIV. 

Richard Fuller, co-author of the study and head at Pure Earth, a nonprofit worldwide, said, “We’re sitting on the stew pot and slowly burning.” But, unlike HIV, climate change, malaria and HIV, “we haven’t given (environmental polluting) much focus.”

According to the latest statistics, pollution is now as deadly as smoking when it comes to global deaths. COVID-19 has killed over 6,000,000 people worldwide since the pandemic began.

Traditional pollutants cause a decline in deaths

The new analysis goes deeper into the causes and distinguishes traditional pollutants such as indoor smoke or sewerage from modern pollutants such as industrial air pollution or toxic chemicals. 

While traditional pollutants are decreasing worldwide, they are still a problem in Africa. Chad, the Central African Republic and Niger were the three countries found to have the most pollution-related deaths, mostly attributed to tainted water, soil and noxious indoor air.

In Nigeria and Ethiopia, deaths have fallen by two-thirds between 2000 and 2019, thanks to efforts to reduce indoor air pollution and improve sanitation. Indias shift away from wood-burning stoves to gas stove connections has also improved mortality rates.

Modern pollutants on the rise

The study found out that deaths caused by exposure to modern pollutants like heavy metals, agrochemicals and fossil fuel emissions, were “just skyrocketing” and had spiked 66% since 2000. This trend was particularly alarming in developing nations.

Outdoor air pollution declined in some capital cities like Bangkok, China and Mexico City. However, pollution levels in smaller cities rose.

Between 2000 and 2019, pollution of modern types fell in the United States, Europe and Ethiopia. The study authors could not explain Ethiopia’s numbers, but suggested that it might be a reporting issue. 

The study authors made eight recommendations to reduce the number of pollution deaths. They highlighted the need for better monitoring and reporting, as well as stronger government regulation of the industry.

Fuller stated, “We know exactly how to solve every one of those problems.” “What’s missing is the political will.”

see/kb (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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