A new study conducted by Lancet Commission on pollution and health finds the truth that no one shilling for the fossil fuel industry wants us to know — pollution kills people, lots and lots of them — every year. “Going into this, my colleagues and I knew that pollution killed a lot of people. But we certainly did not have any idea of the total magnitude of the problem,” said Philip Landrigan, dean of global health at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and co-chair of the commission that created the report. “I think all of us were really surprised when we saw this.”
The Executive Summary
Here’s the Executive Summary of the report:
“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.”
The Earth As Communal Toilet
The upshot of the report is that humanity needs to stop using the earth as a communal toilet. That conclusion should be right up at the top of the list of inalienable truths by which human beings guide themselves, but sadly it is not presently even on it. The culture of greed that underlies what passes for our everyday commerce has managed somehow to convince us that creating massive amounts of pollution is good for us.
To paraphrase Engine Charlie Wilson, what’s good for business is good for the world. The result is a series of what economists call “untaxed externalities,” which is another way of saying that business gets to keep all its profits while sticking the people with the people for cleaning up after them.
Data From 130 Countries
The Lancet Commission study took two years and looked at data from 130 countries. Its findings indicate that pollution kills about 9 million people a year. That’s about 16% of all deaths worldwide. The study found that poor air quality is the significant pollution related killer. Dirty air is said to be responsible for 6.5 million deaths a year. That includes outside air contaminated with mercury, arsenic and other harmful elements and inside air contaminated with the combustion byproducts from burning organic compounds like wood and dung for cooking and for light. Both factors contribute strongly to death from heart disease, stroke, long cancer and other respiratory problems.
Water pollution, which includes everything from unsafe sanitation to contaminated drinking water, accounted for an additional 1.8 million annual deaths from gastrointestinal diseases and other infections, researchers found. India and China experienced the highest number of pollution related deaths — 2.5 million and 1.8 million respectively — with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Kenya close behind.
Cleaning Up Pollution Is Good For The Economy
If nations need an economic incentive to act, the study suggests cleaning up pollution can boost economic input. “Until now, people haven’t recognized what an incredible hit pollution makes on the economy of a country,” Philip Landrigan says. “Pollution control can stimulate the economy because it reduces death and disease.” Pollution eats up about 1.3% of the gross domestic product of low income countries and about 0.5% in higher income nations. That’s without…