A new global report has found diseases caused by pollution was responsible for the premature deaths of around nine million people in 2015 – or nearly 3-out-of-every-20 deaths worldwide.
“If you look at this from a public health policy perspective, that’s more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, and … 15 times more than all wars and other forms of violence,” said University of Queensland researcher Professor Peter Sly.
Professor Sly is also a Commissioner with the Lancet Global Commission on Pollution and Health, and Director of the Children’s Health and Environment program.
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He says pollution is not widely recognised as a health problem in Australia, but research suggests that it should be a concern – citing situations such as water contamination from the Brisbane and Gold Coast airports into local rivers.
“While we are not Beijing or Delhi, we can still measure and demonstrate health impacts of pollution on the Australian population,” he said.
“Children are at high risk and even low dose exposure in utero (in the womb) and early infancy can result in disease, disability and death in childhood and across the lifespan.”
“Costs more to do nothing”
But, in an encouraging push for change, Professor Sly stressed that “it actually costs more to do nothing than to implement proven solutions.”
“Many of the pollution control strategies have proven cost-effective in high and middle income countries, and are ready to be exported and adapted by cities and countries at every level of income.
“The report urges countries to include pollution planning into their planning processes, and asks for support from development assistance agencies to design and implement programs that reduce pollution and save lives.”