Polluted air, water and soil are responsible for the premature death of 9 million people each year according to research published in The Lancet. Deaths from pollution exceed those from war, hunger, AIDS or malaria.
The study warns that pollution is so dangerous that it "threatens the continued survival of human societies", since it represents 16% of deaths worldwide.
Most deaths are from pollution-related illnesses, such as stroke, heart disease, and lung cancer. Deaths occur in higher percentage in developing countries due to the rapid advance of industrialization, but the slow regulation of these activities in environmental matters.
Given that nearly all of these deaths (92%) occur in low- and middle-income countries, and that pollution disproportionately affects the poor and marginalized in every country in the world, the report's authors aim to end the neglect of the issue everywhere. the political spectrum and mobilize the will, resources and leadership necessary to confront them.
Research shows that of the total, 50% of deaths are caused by air pollution generated by cars. This number will continue to rise and deaths in Southeast Asia are expected to double by 2050.
Second, indoor air in homes polluted by the use of wood stoves causes some 2.9 million deaths a year.
It is followed by deaths from water infected with sewage that produces 1.8 million. The most widely transmitted diseases are cholera and parasitosis.
Pollution in the workplace, which is prevalent in industrialized countries, also accounts for around 800,000 deaths each year and is associated with diseases such as bladder cancer in dye workers and asbestosis, pneumoconiosis in coal workers, lung cancer , mesothelioma and other cancers in workers exposed to asbestos (asbestos).
Finally, lead contamination was linked to 500,000 deaths caused by high blood pressure, kidney failure, and cardiovascular disease caused by lead in adults.
The researchers clarify that the figure of 9 million per year is estimated since there are many other diseases derived from pollution little studied such as dementia or diabetes, which would also contribute to the fatal statistics.
Additional health effects caused by other forms of soil toxicity (such as other heavy metals or chemicals) are not adequately investigated and therefore were not included in the study either.
The same happens with diseases derived from the use or exposure to chemical products such as those from the agricultural industry, studies are lacking, so it is also estimated that they could be added to the figures produced by the research.
Children, the most sensitive
The population most vulnerable to deaths from pollution-related diseases are children. Especially if in the fetal stage of development they have been exposed to some kind of contamination.
Pollution and economic losses
The study also linked pollution deaths to economic losses, finding that, on average, pollution-related deaths caused losses of $ 4.6 trillion annually, equivalent to 6.2% of global GDP.
“Pollution is much more than an environmental challenge: it is a deep and pervasive threat that affects many aspects of human health and well-being. It deserves the full attention of international leaders, civil society, health professionals and people around the world ", explains Philip Landrigan, co-author of the work.
Also the planet
But pollution doesn't just affect people, the report warns. It also impacts the ecosystems of the planet because it is closely linked to climate change.
A fact: the burning of fossil fuels is responsible for 80% of the pollution produced in the form of dust suspended in the air and for almost all the pollution caused by oxides of sulfur and nitrogen.
The most important sulfur oxides in terms of air pollution are sulfur dioxide, SO2, and sulfur trioxide, SO3. Nitrogen oxides are one of the most polluting groups. The most important are nitrogen dioxide, NO2 and nitric oxide, NO.
For its part, coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel in the world and its combustion is one of the main causes of both pollution and climate change.
“Pollution is much more than an environmental challenge: it is a deep and omnipresent threat that affects many aspects of human health and well-being. It deserves the full attention of international leaders, civil society, healthcare professionals and people around the world, ”notes the Commission's co-leader, Professor Philip Landrigan, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. , USA, in a statement.
“Despite its far-reaching effects on health, the economy and the environment, pollution has been neglected in international assistance and on global health agendas, and some control strategies have been underfunded. Our goal is to raise global awareness of the importance of pollution and mobilize the political will to address it by providing the most comprehensive estimates of pollution and health available. ”
The Lancet Commission on pollution and health. The Lancet.
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