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It’s time we tackled global pollution
Environmental pollution has turned out to be one of the biggest causes globally of all premature deaths and this is a matter of grave concern.

The fact that an estimated nine million people died worldwide in 2015 due to diseases caused by pollution should ring alarm bells and wake up the world to reality.

The deaths are more than those caused by AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined and even more disastrous than all violence, as per a major study released in the “Lancet” medical journal.

The financial cost from pollution-related death, sickness and welfare is equally massive, costing some $4.6 trillion in annual losses.

Epidemiologist Philip Landrigan, dean of global health at the Icahn School of Medicine and the lead author of the report, is absolutely right when he says pollution has never received the desired attention of world leaders, civil society and health professionals.

Areas like Sub-Saharan Africa have yet to even set up air pollution monitoring systems. Soil pollution has received scant attention. There are still plenty of potential toxins still being ignored, with less than half of the 5,000 new chemicals widely dispersed throughout the environment since 1950 having been tested for safety or toxicity.

Asia and Africa need to wake up fast as they are the regions putting the most people at risk.

The news is not good for India either, as it tops the list of individual countries. One out of every four premature deaths in India in 2015, or some 2.5 million, was attributed to pollution.

China, too, has major reasons to worry and needs to initiate remedial action. Its environment was the second deadliest, with more than 1.8 million premature deaths, or one in five, blamed on pollution-related illness, as per the study.

Several other countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, North Korea, South Sudan and Haiti also see nearly a fifth of their premature deaths caused by pollution.

Distressingly, it is most often the world’s poorest who suffer, as the study points out. The vast majority of pollution-related deaths — 92 per cent — occur in low- or middle-income countries. Environmental regulations in those countries tend to be weaker and industries lean on outdated technologies.

While pollution has considerable negative impact on human health and ecosystems, what should not be forgotten, as UN experts point out, is that it is controllable and avoidable through political leadership, high-level champions and commitments, as well with local level action.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

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