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The number of premature deaths caused by industrial pollution surged in 2019, a new report claims.
The peer-reviewed analysis, published in The Lancet Planetary Health, found the death toll attributed to dirty air from cars, trucks and industry has risen 55 per cent since 2000.

However the overall figure of nine million deaths a year caused by global pollution is “virtually unchanged since the last analysis in 2015”, as numbers were offset by fewer pollution deaths from primitive indoor stoves and water contaminated with human and animal waste.

Air pollution was the biggest driver of deaths, accounting for nearly 75 per cent of the nine million deaths.
Air pollution was the biggest driver of deaths, accounting for nearly 75 per cent of the nine million deaths. (Supplied)

The types of industrial pollution killing people

Industrial pollution includes ambient air pollution, lead pollution, and other forms of chemical pollution.

Of the nine million pollution-related deaths the report claims, air pollution caused the highest number with 6.67 million deaths worldwide. This accounts for nearly 75 per cent.

This was followed by water pollution, responsible for 1.36 million premature deaths.

Lead contributed 900,000 premature deaths, followed by toxic occupational hazards at 870,000 deaths.

A woman tries to avoid clouds of toxic foam rising from the Balsillas River in the Los Puentes neighbourhood in Mosquera, Colombia. (AP)

Environmental authorities said the foam was the result of discharges from an industrial zone as well as household detergents.

One resident, Gonzalo Roa, said the foam was causing respiratory issues in children.

“We’ve had many years of this situation,” he said.

Cars drive through a sand storm in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, May 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

Sandstorms turn city’s sky orange

Staggering economic cost of pollution-related deaths

Lead author of the study Richard Fuller said developing nations are the ones most at risk of pollution-related deaths, which lead to economic losses of US$4∙6 trillion (A$6.5 trillion) in 2019.

The US was the only fully industrialised country in the top 10 nations for pollution deaths. It ranked seven with with 142,883 deaths.

It was slotted between Bangladesh in India, and Ethiopia in Africa.

A pedestrian walks on a bridge above vehicle traffic in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019, as the city is enveloped under thick smog. The air quality index exceeded 400, about eight times the recommended maximum. A study released on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, blames pollution of all types for 9 million deaths a year globally, with the death toll attributed to dirty air from cars, trucks and industry rising 55% since 2000. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup, File)
Deaths were particularly evident in Southeast Asia, ‘where rising levels of industrial pollution are combined with ageing populations and increasing numbers of people exposed’, the report found. (AP)

“The health impacts of pollution remain enormous, and low-and middle-income countries bear the brunt of this burden,” Fuller said, claiming the issue is “over-looked” globally.

“Attention and funding has only minimally increased since 2015, despite well-documented increases in public concern about pollution and its health effects.”

Study co-author Professor Philip Landrigan, Director of the Global Public Health Program and Global Pollution Observatory at Boston College, said pollution also contributes to climate change and global warning.

“Pollution is still the largest existential threat to human and planetary health and jeopardises the sustainability of modern societies,” Landrigan.

“Preventing pollution can also slow climate change – achieving a double benefit for planetary health – and our report calls for a massive, rapid transition away from all fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.”

The study authors concluded by issuing eight recommendations on pollution and health.

These included, calls for an independent, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC)-style science and policy panel on pollution, alongside increased funding for pollution control from governments, independent, and philanthropic donors, and improved pollution monitoring and data collection.

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