Environmental pollution – from filthy air to contaminated water – is causing more deaths annually than all war and violence combined. According to a study published in the journal the Lancet, pollution around the world now contributes to at least one out of every six premature deaths (roughly 9 million), which is more than smoking, hunger or natural disasters, and more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.
“There’s been a lot of study of pollution, but it’s never received the resources or level of attention as, say, AIDS or climate change,” says Philip Landrigan, the lead author of the study, in a news release. “Pollution is a massive problem that people aren’t seeing because they’re looking at scattered bits of it.”
The study also finds that Asia and Africa are the regions putting the most people at risk, while India tops the list of individual countries. In India, one out of every four premature deaths (some 2.5 million) in 2015, was attributed to pollution. China’s environment was the second deadliest, with more than 1.8 million premature deaths due to pollution-related illness. Other developing countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, North Korea, South Sudan and Haiti also see nearly a fifth of their premature deaths caused by pollution.