Study: pollution kills millions
It has long been known that harmful environmental influences affect health. Air pollution is linked to heart disease, stroke, lung disease and lung cancer, among others. And it kills more than nine million people every year, a new study now shows.
Since the turn of the millennium, the number of premature deaths caused by modern forms of pollution from industry, transport and agriculture has increased by 66%. More than nine million people around the world still die from it every year – one in six deaths is due to this cause. This is shown by a study published in the journal “Lancet Planetary Health”.
The causes of death have changed
According to a statement from the University Hospital Munich (LMU Klinikum), the so-called “Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health” had already carried out an analysis of premature deaths from indoor and environmental pollutants” outdoor” in air and water in 2015.
At that time, sources of pollution such as household air pollution, water pollution and poor sanitation were the main drivers of grim death statistics.
“Now it’s mostly air pollution in the environment and exposure to heavy metals,” says Prof. Dr. Stephan Böse-O’Reilly, head of the Global Environmental Medicine and Climate Change working group at Institute and Polyclinic for Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine of the LMU Klinikum.
More people die from lead alone than from malaria.
Majority of deaths in the poorest countries
More than 90% of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
In India, for example, the situation is dramatic. Many people live close to each other there, water pollution is high, and air pollution associated with traffic is extremely high.
Charcoal is often used for indoor cooking, while industrial exposure to outdoor pollutants is not sufficiently regulated or monitored.
Environmental pollution in the EU has improved
In the European Union (EU), on the other hand, pollution is a relatively minor problem.
“Environmental pollution in the European Union has improved considerably,” says Böse-O’Reilly. “Air pollution in particular has improved on the one hand thanks to regulatory measures”, explains the scientist, who is part of the international team of experts who carried out the study.
“That’s why we have relatively fewer deaths from environmental pollution, certainly not mercury or lead, and if so, then fine dust in the outdoor air.”
Pollution closely linked to climate change
But Europe is doing just as well because industrial production has shifted to low- and middle-income countries.
“If you close an aluminum plant in the North Sea and reopen it in Asia, the associated exposure becomes a health problem for the local population,” says Böse-O’Reilly, “but we continue to use the products”.
Pollution is a global problem, with far-reaching responsibility for wealthy industrialized countries as well. “If we want to give people more years of healthy life, policy must tackle the global problem of environmental pollution,” says the expert.
Pollution is closely linked to climate change because air pollutant emissions are very closely linked to carbon dioxide emissions. “If we were to improve the CO2 situation, environmental pollution would automatically be reduced,” says the environmental doctor from Munich. (ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.
University Hospital Munich: Nine Million Deaths from Environmental Pollution, (Accessed: June 27, 2022), University Hospital Munich Richard Fuller, Philip J Landrigan, Kalpana Balakrishnan, Glynda Bathan, Stephan Bose-O’Reilly , Michael Brauer, Jack Caravanos, Tom Chiles, Aaron Cohen, Lilian Corra, Maureen Cropper, Greg Ferraro, Jill Hanna, David Hanrahan, Howard Hu, David Hunter, Gloria Janata, Rachael Kupka, Bruce Lanphear, Maureen Lichtveld, Keith Martin, Adetoun Mustapha, Ernesto Sanchez-Triana, Karti Sandilya, Laura Schaefli, Joseph Shaw, Jessica Seddon, William Suk, Martha María Téllez-Rojo, Chonghuai Yan: Pollution and Health: A Progress Update; in: Lancet Planetary Health, (published online: 2022-05-17 and in: Volume 6, Issue 6, E535-E547, 2022-06-01), Lancet Planetary Health
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.