Indian bikers wearing face protection against air pollution on the road in heavy smog in New Delhi on October 20, 2017 the day after the Diwali Festival.
New Delhi was shrouded in a thick blanket of toxic smog a day after millions of Indians lit firecrackers to mark the Diwali Festival. / AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET
Motorcyclists cover their faces to protect against heavy smog in New Delhi on October 20, 2017, the day after millions of Indians celebrated the Diwali Festival by lighting firecrackers. Dominique FagShow more

Pollution responsible for nine million deaths in 2015, study finds



Pollution claimed the lives of nine million people in 2015, one in every six deaths that year, according to a report published on Friday.

Almost all the deaths, 92 per cent, happened in low- and middle-income countries, it said, with air pollution the main culprit, felling 6.5 million people.

Almost half of the total toll came from just two countries - India and China - researchers reported in The Lancet medical journal.

In rapidly-industrialising countries such as India, Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Madagascar and Kenya, pollution can account for as many as one in four deaths, they said.

"Pollution and related diseases most often affect the world's poor and powerless, and victims are often the vulnerable and the voiceless," said co-author Karti Sandilya of Pure Earth, an anti-pollution NGO.

"As a result, pollution threatens fundamental human rights, such as the right to life, health, well-being, safe work, as well as protections of children and the most vulnerable."

With global welfare losses of about US$4.6 trillion (Dh17 trillion) per year, the economic cost of pollution-related deaths and disease is also concentrated in the developing world.

"Proportionally, low-income countries pay 8.3 per cent of their gross national income to pollution-related death and disease, while high-income countries pay 4.5 per cent," the researchers said.

Aside from outright poisoning, pollution causes an array of deadly ailments such as heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The deadliest form, responsible for more than two-thirds of deaths, was air pollution, they added.

This includes outdoor pollution from factory and car emissions, and indoor pollution from wood, charcoal, coal, dung or crop waste being burnt for heating and cooking.

After water pollution in second place with 1.8 million deaths, "workplace pollution including exposure to toxins and carcinogens was linked to 0.8 million deaths", the report said.

These included the lung disease pneumoconiosis in coal workers, bladder cancer in dye workers, and asbestosis and lung cancer in workers exposed to asbestos.

"Lead pollution was linked to 0.5 million deaths that resulted from high blood pressure, renal failure and cardiovascular disease," said the report.

In a separate comment, The Lancet editors Pamela Das and Richard Horton said the report came at a "worrisome time, when the US government's Environmental Protection Agency, headed by Scott Pruitt, is undermining established environmental regulations".

The latest findings, they added, should serve as a "call to action".

"Pollution is a winnable battle.... Current and future generations deserve a pollution-free world," the editors wrote.

Mr Pruitt announced this month the US would pull out of former president Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan.

There was some good news in the report too.

Deaths due to water and household air pollution dropped from 5.9 million in 1990 to 4.2 million in 2015, as poor countries became richer.

On the other hand, deaths from pollution associated with industrial development - such as outdoor air pollution, chemical and soil pollution, increased from 4.3 million to 5.5 million over the same period.

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July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

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2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

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