Pollution — whether air pollution, water pollution, or soil pollution — is currently responsible for around 16% of all deaths globally, according to a new report from The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health.
Notably, around 92% of all pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. This reality is of course due to the impacts of outsourcing most of the “developed” world’s industrial capacity to the poorer parts of the world where labor is cheaper and environmental controls are much laxer.
Diseases caused by pollution were responsible in 2015 for an estimated 9 million premature deaths — 16% of all deaths worldwide — three times more deaths than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined; and fifteen times more than all wars and other forms of violence. It kills more people than smoking, hunger and natural disasters.
Pollution is closely tied to climate change and biodiversity. Fossil fuel combustion in higher-income countries and the burning of biomass in lower-income countries accounts for 85% of airborne particulate pollution. Major emitters of carbon dioxide are coal-fired power plants, chemical producers, mining operations, and vehicles. Accelerating the switch to cleaner sources of energy will reduce air pollution and improve human and planetary health.