Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Pollution behind ‘1 in 6 global deaths’ in 2019



Pollution behind ‘1 in 6 global deaths’ in 2019

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A runner jogs at Primrose Hill with the Shard in the background as a high air pollution warning was issued for London on March 24. AFP

Pollution behind ‘1 in 6 global deaths’ in 2019

Pollution caused some 9 million people to die prematurely in 2019, according to a new global report published on May 18, with experts raising alarm over increasing deaths from breathing outside air and the “horrifying” toll of lead poisoning.

Human-created waste in the air, water and soil rarely kills people immediately, but causes instead heart disease, cancer, respiratory problems, diarrhoea and other serious illnesses.

The Lancet Commission on pollution and health said the impact from pollution on global health remains “much greater than that of war, terrorism, malaria, HIV, tuberculosis, drugs and alcohol”.

Pollution is an “existential threat to human health and planetary health, and jeopardises the sustainability of modern societies,” it added.

In general, the review found, air pollution – accounting for a total of 6.7 million deaths globally in 2019 – was “entwined” with climate change because the main source of both problems is burning fossil fuels and biofuels.

“If we can’t manage to grow in a clean and green way, we’re doing something terribly wrong,” said the report’s lead author Richard Fuller, of the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution, adding that chemical pollution also harms biodiversity – another major global threat.

“These things are terribly connected and strategies to deal with one have ripple effects all the way through,” he said.

Overall, one in six premature deaths globally – or nine million – were caused by pollution, a figure unchanged since the last assessment in 2015.

Researchers noted a reduction in mortality linked to indoor air pollution, unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation, with major improvements seen in Africa.

But early deaths associated with industrialisation – outdoor air and chemical pollution – are on the rise, particularly in southern and eastern Asia.

Ambient air pollution caused some 4.5 million deaths in 2019, according to the study, published in Lancet Planetary Health, compared with 4.2 million in 2015 and just 2.9 million in 2000.

Chemical pollution is also increasing, with lead poisoning alone causing 900,000 deaths. Even that, the report warned, is likely a “substantial undercount” in light of new research suggesting there is no safe level of exposure.

Algeria banned lead in petrol in 2021, the last country to do so.

But people continue to be exposed to the toxic substance, largely due to unregulated recycling of lead-acid batteries and e-waste. Contaminated culinary spices are also a culprit.

“The fact that lead is getting worse, mostly in poorer countries, and ramping up in terms of the number of deaths, is horrifying,” said Fuller.

Heart disease is the cause of almost all early deaths from exposure to lead, which hardens arteries, said Fuller.

But elevated lead levels in blood – estimated to affect hundreds of millions of children – also harm brain development and are linked to serious losses of cognitive function.

The report said lead is also linked to a spike in behavioural disorders and diminished economic productivity, with global economic losses estimated at almost $1 trillion annually.

In Africa, economic losses from lead-related IQ loss are equivalent to about four percent of gross domestic product, while in Asia it amounts to two percent.

MOST VIEWED

  • Siem Reap drain canal now ‘mangrove’ promenade

    A more than half a kilometre long stretch of canal in Siem Reap has been covered and turned into a promenade to attract visitors, said Ly Rasmey, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, on September 16. The new pedestrianised

  • Angkor wildlife, aquarium park still to open October

    The Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium complex about 30km southeast of Siem Reap town with initial total investment of more than $70 million is reportedly still on track for an end-October opening. The park is located on a 100ha plot along National Road 6 in Kbon village, Khchas

  • Final verdicts for Khmer Rouge leaders ‘vital’ for next generation

    Nearly a decade after the commencement of Case 002/02 against Khieu Samphan back in 2014, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is now set to deliver its final verdict for the former Khmer Rouge head of state. The Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC,

  • Defence minister reaffirms Kingdom’s staunch support for One-China policy

    Minister of National Defence General Tea Banh has reaffirmed Cambodia’s unwavering support for the One-China policy. Tea Banh was speaking at the September 20 ceremonial handover of 117 vehicles and other military equipment donated by China’s defence ministry, held at Phnom Chumreay International Military Training

  • Deaths due to ‘lifestyle’ diseases rise in Kingdom

    The Ministry of Health has called on people to pay closer attention to their health to protect themselves from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which it said have caused high rates of deaths in the country. Ministry secretary of state York Sambath made the call at a

  • Textile industry minimum wage now $200

    The official minimum wage for workers in textile-related sectors including garment, footwear, and travel goods for 2023 was pegged at $198, with Prime Minister Hun Sen stepping in to add $2 to the total, making it $200 per month. The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training made the announcement