Editorial: Worse than wars, disasters, and hunger

ENVIRONMENTAL pollution, a new study says, is worse than wars, disasters, and hunger.

The major study published in The Lancet medical journal said one out of every six premature deaths (a conservative estimate of 9-million) in the world in 2015 could be attributed to toxic exposure.

The report estimated that annual losses incurred from pollution-related death, sickness, and welfare is around $4.6-trillion, which is around 6.2 percent of the global economy.

"Pollution is a massive problem that people aren't seeing because they're looking at scattered bits of it," said epidemiologist Philip Landrigan, dean of global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, and the lead author of the report.

The 9-million deaths, despite being tagged as a conservative estimate is already 150% of the number of people killed by smoking, and yet, there is so much public focus on the dangers of smoking. This number is also three times the death toll of Aids, tuberculosis, and malaria combined, and yet, Aids, tuberculosis, and malaria get more medical attention. It is more than six times of road accident deaths, and yet the World Health Organization (WHO) itself lists road accident deaths among their areas of concern. Worse, it is 15 times more than people killed in war and other forms of violence, the report said.

As always, it is the poor who is most affected.

"What people don't realize is that pollution does damage to economies. People who are sick or dead cannot contribute to the economy. They need to be looked after," said Richard Fuller, head of the global toxic watchdog Pure Earth and one of the 47 scientists, policy makers and public health experts who contributed to the 51-page report. "There is this myth that finance ministers still live by, that you have to let industry pollute or else you won't develop, he said. "It just isn't true."

Forms of pollution that contribute to this include air, water, and soil pollution in all its forms.

Citing a research by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the report said that the US even gained $30 in benefits for every dollar spent on controlling air pollution since the US Congress enacted the Clean Air Act in 1970. The report further took note of the studies by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention where it said removing lead from gasoline earned the US economy a cumulative amount of $6-trillion since 1980.

That said, we recall last Monday's nationwide jeepney strike and recall how many of these fail emission tests, and yet remain on our streets.

Indeed, it is the poor who is most affected and yet the poverty card is being used to thwart any move to modernize public transport and reduce pollution.
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