Pollution has long been considered a major public health concern because long-term exposure poses several existential risks and harmful effects to humans. This fact is proven by a major study published in the medical journal, The Lancet.

According to the study, Environmental Pollution is killing at least 9 million people annually. The global economy, on the other hand, is losing $4.6 trillion (about 6.2 percent) yearly due to the financial cost from death and sickness linked to pollution.

Deadlier than war and violence

Environmental pollution can be classified into four major types — air, water, noise, and light.

Unfortunately, all types of pollution pose a massive risk to human health. According to The Associated Press (via New York Daily News), one out of every six Premature deaths worldwide in 2015 could be attributed to illnesses from toxic exposure to environmental pollutants such as particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide or sulfur dioxide.

Based on the data from the Global Burden of Disease, environmental pollution is 15 times deadlier than all forms of violence and wars in the world. It is also three times more fatal than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined, one-and-a-half times more lethal than smoking. It is also more than six times deadlier than road accidents and more fatal than hunger and natural disasters.

Most polluted countries

The study also looked into the level of pollutants in several nations and researchers found that 2.5 million (or one out of every four premature deaths) in India in 2015 was linked to pollution.

China ranked second deadliest with over 1.8 million premature deaths recorded.

Researchers also found that the African and Asian regions are “putting the most people at risk” for long-term pollution exposure. Other nations with deadly environments include Haiti, Bangladesh, South Sudan, Pakistan and North Korea.

Less attention and resources

Polluted environments are putting humanity at risk. However, lead study author and epidemiologist Philip Landrigan pointed out that several studies on pollution did not “received the resources or level of attention” as compared to climate change or AIDS.

Landrigan, who is also the dean of global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, explained that most people don’t see that pollution has become a massive public health concern because they’re only looking at the “scattered bits” of the issue. The researchers also stressed that the 9 million premature deaths in their findings were just a partial estimate of the total number of people killed by pollution exposure.

They added that the number is undoubtedly higher and will be quantified once further studies are conducted and “new methods of assessing harmful impacts are developed.” They also stressed that there are still several potential toxins still being ignored and have not been tested for toxicity or safety.


Based on the study that was written by over 40 international health and environment specialists, 92 percent of pollution-related deaths occurred in low- and middle-income nations, as per Time. The study also suggested people in countries that are more focused on economic development are likely more affected.

Compared to wealthier nations, those in the poorest communities are more often exposed to environmental pollutants.

With that said, Sanford School of Public Policy and Duke University’s Duke Global Health Institute associate professor Marc Jeuland stressed that the study highlighted the “social and economic justice” of the problem.

Global priority

Due to the harmful effects of pollution on human health and wellbeing, the World Bank announced in April that reducing it should be a global priority. The United Nations, on the other hand, is hosting the first-ever conference that will address the issue on global pollution in December.