Pollution has been well known as a major contributor to premature deaths for some time. However, a new report has highlighted just how serious the problem has now become. The report shows that in 2015, almost one in six early deaths were related to some type of air, water, soil or chemical pollution.
The research also showed that air pollution poses a massive risk to public health, and is one of the biggest causes of deaths -being linked to 6.5 million fatalities. Water pollution was shown to be the cause of 1.8 million deaths and workplace pollution was responsible for 800,000.
For the purposes of the study, researchers defined pollution as “unwanted, often dangerous, material that is introduced into the Earth’s environment as a result of human activity, that threatens human health, and that harms ecosystems”. The results suggest that pollution affects public health, as well as the environment, economies and other areas. Researchers also commented that the issue is not being taken seriously enough considering the serious impact it has globally.
Those living in low-middle income nations were found to be at most risk, with 92% of fatalities occurring in these countries. Countries with rapid rates of industrialisation, including India, China, Bangladesh and Kenya, see the highest risks, with an estimated 25% of all premature deaths being connected to polluted air, water of soil.
Children are particularly vulnerable to the risks associated with pollution. According to Dr. Olusoji Adeyi, a commissioner and director of the health, nutrition and population global practice at the World Bank Group “Pollution disproportionately impacts the poor and the vulnerable. Children face the highest risks. It is important to translate awareness into action at the local, national, and global levels. The thing that worries me most in all this is the neurological damage that many of these toxins have.”
Pediatrician Dr. Philip J. Landrigan and commented on the ongoing health threat of chemicals, saying “There are thousands of chemicals out there and we know that people are exposed to them. We just didn’t know enough about what chemicals are doing to people.”
Landrigan also noted that the data used in the report comes from “very credible sources”, including The World Health Organisation and The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. He added that “For the first time, we pulled out and collected in one place all of the information on deaths caused by all forms of pollution combined — in other words, air pollution, water pollution, chemical pollution, soil pollution, occupational pollution in the workplace — and put it all together”