Lancet report indicates 9 million pollution deaths per year and $4.6 trillion per year in damage

For decades, pollution and its harmful effects on people’s health, the environment, and the planet have been neglected both by Governments and the international development agenda. Yet, pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and death in the world today, responsible for an estimated 9 million premature deaths.

The Lancet Commission on pollution and health addresses the full health and economic costs of air, water, and soil pollution. Through analyses of existing and emerging data, the Commission reveals pollution’s severe and underreported contribution to the Global Burden of Disease. It uncovers the economic costs of pollution to low-income and middle-income countries. The Commission will inform key decision makers around the world about the burden that pollution places on health and economic development, and about available cost-effective pollution control solutions and strategies.

In less developed nations, pollution-linked illness and death drags down productivity, reducing economic output by 1 percent to 2 percent annually.

The cost of inaction is high, while solutions yield enormous economic gains. Welfare losses due to pollution are estimated at $4.6 trillion per year —6.2 percent of global economic output. In the United States, investment in pollution control has returned $200 billion each year since 1980 ($6 trillion total). The claim that pollution control stifles economic growth and that poor countries
must pollute to grow is false.

The 16% of all deaths worldwide—three times more deaths than from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined and 15 times more than from all wars and other forms of violence. In the most severely affected countries, pollution-related disease is responsible for more than one death in four.

“In the scientific community, I don’t think there is any disagreement about the cost-benefit analysis of controlling pollution,” Dominici said. Reducing air pollution from vehicles and power plants, for example, would simultaneously improve human health and reduce planet-warming carbon emissions, she said. “The major barrier has been political, but not scientific.”

Air pollution causes 6.5 million of 9 million annual deaths. That includes smog from power plants, factories, and vehicles, as well as household emissions from dirty indoor stoves used in poorer countries. Contaminated water, soil, and occupational exposures to dangerous chemicals contribute significantly to the death toll as well.

Reducing environmental toxins can also yield economic benefits in ways that aren’t as apparent as more obvious health benefits. For example, burning leaded gas leaves the pollutant in the air. When children inhale lead-polluted air, they can suffer from cognitive impairment.

The levels of lead in children’s blood plummeted after regulators began phasing it out of fuel in the 1970s. By the late 1990s, the average IQ of preschoolers had risen by an estimated 2 to 5 points, according to one analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. That improved cognitive power would lead to greater productivity over their lifetimes, accruing economic benefits calculated at more than $110 billion a year.

11 thoughts on “Lancet report indicates 9 million pollution deaths per year and $4.6 trillion per year in damage”

  1. We could use quite a fraction of industrial (and agricultural) waste in plasma gasification power plants. These plasmify everything thrown down the chute. So, no molecules. So, no poisonous molecules. (Still poisonous atoms, but that is a simpler problem). many X’s exothermic, bottom line, on municipal or agricultural waste.

    As the plasma returns to non-plasma atoms, control can be applied to form simple molecules, like H2 and CO, which can be burned for power, distributed, or used to build more complex hydrocarbons.

    Silicon and calcium and such form rocky materials, basically obsidian.

    Metals coagulate.

    I’ve heard (from a professor at a good university) for example that in a ton of electronic-card waste (~fifteen dollars per ton) is about $35 thousand in metal.

    We should have these operating now.

  2. Seriously… couldn’t this be MORE specific? its such a broad brush castigation. (I’m not trying to diminish the jaw-dropping death-rate afforded to “pollution”. I am interested tho’ in how different regions are doing. I’m interested in how the death-by-pollution correlates to country, to economic attainment, to population, to city-vs-rural factors. I’m interested in how China has improved, or not. )

    Here’s why.

    Because countries don’t have walls. Commerce doesn’t have walls. The oh-so-Modern-World not only doesn’t have walls, but it prides itself on being wall-less for commerce and unfortunately also pollution export.

    As an example, China (and Vietnam, and Cambodia, and India, and …) has a truly burgeoning business in recycling “stuff” from the West. All those truly giant container ships that come here full of shiny East Asian cars, TVs, computers, smartphones, Harbor Freight cheap-âhss tools, plastic doodads, everything to fill up Ace Hardware stores, Dollar Store shelves, Home & Garden depots, etc. All that stuff FILLS those container ships to the gills. But they do not return empty, folks. Not exactly full (more like only 20% or less full), but full of JUNK. Dirty, toxic, to-us worthless JUNK.

    Whence in Taiwan, Philippines, China, Singapore, it is disgorged container-by-container, shuttled to the various sweat-shops that chop, sift, sort, grind, scrape, chemically erode and re-refine the ‘stuff’ into apparently useable materials that enter back into the materials stream. Almost ALL of this activity generating ghastly amounts, frighteningly enormous amounts of deadly toxic by-streams. Pollution. And the very same countries have a vested interest in making Green noises, but looking the other way as their own and neighboring people are slowly poisoned by the pollution stream.

    ONE IRREFUTABLE EXAMPLE: The Great Pacific Garbage Gyre. Millions and millions of tons of garbage disgorged by China’s, Philippines’, etc., rivers and winds. this impacts the food chain, folks. And we, like they, eat fish from that food chain.

    Or another HUGE example: Arctic Ice Loss. Couldn’t be simpler: China (mostly, but not exclusively) generates without question billions of tons of aerosolized atmospheric pollutants. It is a veritable pig-sty that way, no matter how much Green Glory it proclaims periodically to the Media. Because of Earth’s atmospheric dynamics, some of those billions of tons gets sucked into the circumpolar atmospheric air currents. Up in Winter, Summer and between. Guess what it does?

    It nucleates thicker cloud cover. The stratosphere is much lower in the Arctic; the tropopause likewise. The altitude of wispy-seeming cirrus and thicker strato-cirrus clouds is lower. The Asian pollution need not rise as high to do its dirty deed(s). But just like on a cold winter day WITH high atmospheric clouds, your car doesn’t get a freezing layer of condensation ice, but on a CLEAR day it freezes up entire, in the same way the high strata-cirrus blankets the “exfoliation” of infrared, preventing the normal build up of Arctic ice. Thus the whole arctic is rendered less of a reservoir of “cold”. Thus worldwide weather and climate is affected. Significantly. (So much for global warming? No: its real, but it isn’t CO₂ that’s all that much of the impactor.)


    I’m interested in more specifics than this politicized piece. Seriously.

  3. I thought the biggest argument for letting business pollute was that it was too expensive for them to stop and it would damage the economy. I mean look how hard everyone is fighting to burn more and more coal which is the most polluting source of power.

  4. I really wish Brian Wang would find out (from the article) how the numbers of deaths (according to the authors) are distributed by in-door pollution and smog. And, also, how many deaths are still happening in the Europe and the USA as a result of industry and transportation. My suspicion is that industry and transportation contributes negligible to the deaths, and smog/indoor pollution the lions share. But environmentalists are bound to deliberately mix the contributors in order to have an argument for even stricter (western world) environmental regulations.

  5. About the cognitive effect. We have the so called “Flynn effect” for adults, and nobody attributes this to reduced levels of lead in the environment. The western world hasn’t had lead in the petrol for a couple of decades, and still the (apparent) intelligence rises. So, isn’t it a smaller and better theory to assume that the (unkonwn) driver behind the Flynn effect also drives the increase in IQ-scores for pre-schoolers in the western world?

    • Though it has been argued that the Flynn affect is merely the sum of all the little improvements in the physical and cultural environment that have occurred over the past century. Of which removal of lead from the environment is just one more example.

  6. In a follow up report Lancet report indicates that 90% of Next Big Future readers dislike the current commenting system.

    • Peer reviewers point out that because of statistical problems in the analysis, the real figure could be as high as 100%.

  7. The claim that pollution control stifles economic growth and that poor countries must pollute to grow is false.

    Tell that to China.

    PS Brian, despite repeated attempts to follow the directions, Word Press refuses to let me log in. Thus, I cannot track replies, votes, etc.

    Of course, there’s the matter of the points that have disappeared, too.

    Unless or until the situation changes, I’ve decided to no longer post here. Bye.

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