Pollution-related deaths in India rank among the highest globally, study reveals

India gate air pollution

To drive home the true weight of these figures, this means that pollution kills three times more people annually than tuberculosis, AIDS, or malaria. It is also one-and-a-half times higher than the number of people killed by smoking and over six times the number of people dying in road accidents.

The report, published Thursday in The Lancet, says that the deaths of approximately 9 million people worldwide in 2015 were linked to some form of pollution - air, water, soil, chemical or occupational pollution.

The study, published on Friday in the Lancet, warned that pollution is so risky it "threatens the continuing survival of human societies".

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Most of these nine million deaths occur from pollution-related diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and lung-cancer.

Experts say the huge population of countries like India and China and the fact that these are developing economies should also be kept in mind while analysing these statistics.

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.

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"Although more than 70 per cent of the diseases caused by pollution are non-communicable diseases, interventions against pollution are barely mentioned in the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases". "It deserves the full attention of worldwide leaders, civil society, health professionals, and people around the world", says Professor Philip Landrigan of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and co-leader of the two-year, global Lancet Commission. Toxic water is responsible for another 1.8 million death each year; sewage-laced water, for instance, is often linked to illnesses like cholera or parasitic infections.

"If we want to substantially reduce the global environmental burden of disease, we need to act further upstream and address the drivers and sources of pollution to ensure that development policies and investments are healthy and sustainable by design and that the choices we make-at the government, private sector, and individual levels-cultivate a healthier and safer environment". Other nations with deadly environments include Haiti, Bangladesh, South Sudan, Pakistan and North Korea.

For low-middle-income countries like India, the productivity loss is to the tune of 0.32-0.4% of GDP. Pollution-related disease also results in health-care costs that are responsible for 1.7 per cent of annual health spending in high-income countries and for up to 7 per cent of health spending in middle-income countries that are heavily polluted and rapidly developing. The report states that the economic cost will rise as the association between pollution and disease becomes clearer and more robust.

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