The death toll of air pollution is around nine million lives per year, according to two new reports published this week by medical journals.
On Tuesday, the Lancet Planetary Health journal published a report by Richard Fuller. This report compiled analyses of health risk of air, water, and toxic chemical pollution in 2019. Its results indicate that those forms of pollution are responsible for around 9 million premature deaths annually, or one in six deaths world-wide, and have been since 2015.
Fuller’s study found that more than 90 percent of pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. The countries with the highest pollution-related deaths in 2019 were India, China, Nigeria, Pakistan and Indonesia. Low-income regions in higher-income countries also see a higher death toll of air pollution.
Air pollution, which accounts for most of pollution-related deaths, increases the risk of heart disease, respiratory infections, cancers of the lungs, mouth, and throat, tuberculosis, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and low birth weight, all of which are known to shorten life spans.
According to smaller-scale study, published Monday, 53,000 premature deaths per year could be eliminated in the United States if we switched entirely away from emissions-generating energy production.
According to more of Richard Fuller’s research, the dominant forms of pollution causing deaths are changing. In 2000, deaths from household air and water pollution were common. Today, those have all but vanished and deaths from outdoor air pollution and toxic chemicals have risen over 66%. Some of that difference, however, is a difference of what we measure for today, such as the rising number of lead-related deaths.
It’s important to highlight that these reports are not saying we have 9 million people dying a year with ‘bad air’ on their death certificates. These people are dying of heart attacks, diabetes, cancer, strokes, coughs and colds. But pollution has played a part in shortening their lives, making them more susceptible to those things that killed them.