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Study: Pollution is the World’s No. 1 Killer

Wide-ranging Report Tackles Pollution as a Public Health Issue
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Pollution accounts for more deaths every year than any illness. That's the headline from a new report published in the medical journal The Lancet on Thursday. Part of the response to this massive number involves treating pollution like a health issue, instead of an environmental problem.

Pollution is the world’s No. 1 killer, a new study says, causing more premature deaths than war, terrorism, natural disasters, cigarettes and disease.

A new study in the medical journal Lancet said pollution, both outdoor and indoor, killed about 9 million people in 2015, or one out of every six deaths.

“Pollution threatens fundamental human rights, such as the right to life, health, well-being, safe work as well as protections of children and the most vulnerable,” co-author Karti Sandilya said.

Developing countries

The study said the overwhelming majority of pollution-related deaths come in developing countries where the authors say leaders are more concerned about building their economies and infrastructure than environmental regulations.

Bangladesh, China, Haiti, India, Pakistan, North Korea and South Sudan are some of the most affected countries.

But one of the study’s authors, Richard Fuller, said pollution is tied to slow economic development in wealthy and poor nations.

Conservative estimate

“There is this myth that finance ministers still live by, that you have to let industry pollute or else you won’t develop. What people don’t realize ... people who are sick or dead cannot contribute to the economy. They need to be looked after,” Fuller said.

The study said the figure of 9 million premature deaths a year is a conservative estimate and that the actual number is likely to be much higher.

A separate World Bank study has said slashing pollution must be a priority, saying that solving this problem would lead to solutions to other crises, including global warming and malnutrition.

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