POLLUTION TAKES DISEASES AND MORTALITY TO A NEW LEVEL

POLLUTION TAKES DISEASES AND MORTALITY TO A NEW LEVEL

“Pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and premature death in the world today. Diseases caused by pollution were responsible for an estimated 9 million premature deaths in 2015—16% of all deaths worldwide— three times more deaths than from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined and 15 times more than from all wars and other forms of violence.”

— The Lancet Commission on pollution and health

 

POLLUTION AND ITS RISK FACTORS

The Lancet Commission recently reported that „pollution endangers planetary health, destroys ecosystems and is intimately linked to global climate change.”

Pollution was examined considering the following 4 risk factors:

  1. Air pollution, that regards household air pollution, the ambient fine particulate pollution and the tropospheric ozone pollution;
  2. Water pollution, that refers to unsafe sanitation of water, and the unsafe water sources themselves;
  3. Soil, chemical, and heavy metal pollution. Lead and mercury from gold mining are the main concerns here.
  4. Occupational pollution: gases, fumes and occupational carcinogens.

POLLUTION EMPOWERS DISEASES.

“Pollution is thus responsible for more deaths than a high-sodium diet (4.1 million), obesity (4.0 million), alcohol (2.3 million), road accidents (1.4 million), or child and maternal malnutrition (1.4 million). Pollution was also responsible for three times as many deaths as AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined and for nearly 15 times as many deaths as war and all forms of violence. Only dietary risk factors (all combined) (12.1 million) and hypertension (10.7 million) caused more deaths than pollution,” writes the Commission’s Report.

“However, the Commission notes that approximately 2·5% of deaths due to hypertension are attributable to lead.”

Non-communicable diseases account for most of the total burden of disease due to pollution—approximately 71%.

“In 2015, all forms of pollution combined were responsible for 21% of all deaths from cardiovascular disease, 26% of deaths due to ischemic heart disease, 23% of deaths due to stroke, 51% of deaths due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and 43% of deaths due to lung cancer. The relative risks of all non-communicable diseases associated with pollution increase as exposure to pollution increases,” the Commission found out.

The analysis of future mortality found that under the business as usual scenario – with no pollution control – “the numbers of deaths due to pollution will rise over the next three decades, with sharpest increases in the cities of south and east Asia.”

Another analysis examined the potential benefits of reducing PM2·5 pollution. This estimates that aggressive pollution control would lower current mortality by 23%.

POVERTY + POLLUTION = DISEASE AND/OR DEATH

The Commission has determined that “92% of all pollution-related mortality is seen in low-income and middle-income countries, with the greatest numbers of deaths from pollution-related disease occurring in rapidly developing and industrializing lower-middle-income countries.”

In less developed countries – which are also the most impacted by environmental hazards – “pollution is responsible for more than one in four deaths,” the Commission wrote. But the effects on health are more frequently severe and unmerciful for the marginalized and the poor. Also, death caused by pollution occurs among the very young or very old of age.

“Deaths due to all forms of pollution show a peak among children younger than 5 years of age”, the findings say, included into the Lancet report.

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