Pollution resulted in 9 million premature deaths worldwide in 2019. That’s one in six deaths globally. In other words, pollution is the largest environmental risk factor for disease and premature death worldwide.
These findings come from The Lancet Commission on pollution and health’s new research publication “Pollution and health: a progress update.” The research update is an evaluation of pollution’s effect on human health worldwide based on 2019 Global Burden of Disease data. The May 2022 publication is a follow-up to the Commission’s previous 2017 publication that used 2015 data.
Air Pollution Deaths Worldwide
The study focuses on chemical pollution, lead pollution and water pollution in addition to air pollution. But what does the updated research say about air pollution specifically? Of the 9 million premature pollution deaths each year, 6.7 million are due to air pollution. To emphasize, most global pollution deaths are in fact caused by air pollution exposure.
Let’s break the data down further. Ambient air pollution, or outdoor air pollution, was responsible for 4.5 million deaths in 2019. That means household air pollution, or indoor air pollution, is responsible for roughly 2.2 million deaths each year.
Pollution concentrations and pollution exposure risks are most severe in low-income and middle-income countries.
International Efforts to Reduce Pollution Are Needed
Despite growing public concern about air quality and clear evidence showing the connection between air pollution exposure and human health, funding and policy action have only minimally improved since 2015. According to researchers, successful pollution control efforts will require cooperative international action. For this reason, the Commission explains that:
“International organizations and national governments need to continue expanding the focus on pollution as one of the triumvirate of global environmental issues.”
Significant widespread change is necessary to ensure clean breathing air indoors and out for all people across the world. This is especially true considering the direct relationship between climate change and air pollution. Looking to the future, working to minimize global air pollution simultaneously helps mitigate climate change. Acknowledging this relationship and prioritizing pollution prevention is just one of the Commission’s recommendations.
Global Air Pollution
While these statistics are a stark reality of global pollution today, increasing public awareness is the necessary boost to further air pollution control and intervention. Improving your own understanding of air pollution, taking action in your home and workplace and helping increase demand for air quality control, in turn, improves air quality overall.