Deteriorating outdoor pollution and toxic lead poisoning have increased global pollution deaths to about 9 million a year since 2015, against modest progress in fighting pollution elsewhere, a group of scientists said Tuesday.

Air pollution from industrial processes along with urbanization led to a 7% increase in mortality due to environmental pollution from 2015 to 2019, according to an analysis by scientists of data on global mortality and pollution levels.

“We’re sitting in a pot and burning slowly,” said Richard Fuller, co-author of the study and head of the global nonprofit Pure Earth. But unlike climate change, malaria or HIV, “we didn’t pay much attention to (environmental pollution).”

An earlier version of the paper, published in 2017, estimated the death toll at around 9 million a year – or about one in six deaths worldwide – and the cost to the global economy is up to $ 4.6 trillion a year.

This puts pollution alongside smoking in terms of mortality in the world. By comparison, COVID-19 has killed about 6.7 million people worldwide since the pandemic began.

In their latest study, published in the online journal Lancet Planetary Health, the authors analyzed 2019 data from the ongoing Global Burden of Disease at the University of Washington, which assesses the overall impact of pollution and calculates the risk of death.

The new analysis looks more specifically at the causes of pollution – separating traditional pollutants such as indoor smoke or sewage from more modern pollutants such as industrial air pollution and toxic chemicals. Here are some of the key findings:

Deaths from traditional pollutants are declining worldwide. But they remain a serious problem in Africa and some other developing countries.

Polluted water, soil and indoor pollution have put Chad, the Central African Republic and Niger in the top three countries with the highest number of deaths from environmental pollution, according to population data.

Government programs to reduce indoor air pollution and improve sanitation have helped reduce the death toll in some places.

In Ethiopia and Nigeria, these efforts have resulted in two-thirds deaths between 2000 and 2019.

Meanwhile, the Indian government in 2016 began proposing to replace wood stoves with gas stoves.

Deaths caused by exposure to modern pollutants such as heavy metals, agrochemicals and fossil fuel emissions have “just grown and risen 66% since 2000,” said co-author Rachel Kupka, executive director of the Global Alliance for Health and Environmental Pollution in New York. York. .

When it comes to outdoor air pollution, some major capitals have made some progress, including in Bangkok, China and Mexico City, the authors say. But in small towns, pollution levels continue to rise.


The study offered a list of the 10 countries most affected by pollution-related mortality, based on their findings on population-adjusted mortality.

1. Chad; 2. Central African Republic; 3. Niger; 4. Solomon Islands; 5. Somalia; 6. South Africa; 7. North Korea; 8. Lesotho; 9. Bulgaria; 10. Burkina Faso.

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