Polluted air, soil, water, and work environments were responsible for 1 in every 6 deaths in 2015, a massive new study published in the The Lancet on Friday found. The more than nine million premature deaths from pollution in 2015 primarily took the form of noncommunicable diseases, including asthma and cancer, with lead pollution contributing to half a million deaths on its own. The study warned that if not addressed, pollution "threatens the continuing survival of human societies."
Poor populations are the most vulnerable to pollution-related deaths, with toxic environments causing a quarter of all deaths in nations like India, Chad, and Madagascar, The Guardian reports. The United States broke the top 10 for countries with "modern" pollution, including fossil fuel-related pollution and chemical pollution.
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The report comes at a sensitive time for the Trump administration, which has been accused of wanting to "eviscerate" the Environmental Protection Agency. "Trump has asked EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to help dismantle much of President Obama's environmental legacy," The Week writes, including the "Clean Power Plan, which promotes renewable energy and curbs greenhouse gas emissions; rules requiring cars and light trucks to average 36 miles per gallon (up from 25 mpg) by 2025; and the Clean Water Rule, which expanded the number of small streams and wetlands that qualify for federal protections."
The authors of the Lancet report urged immediate action to curb pollution. Professor Philip Landrigan, who co-led the Commission on Pollution and Health behind the study, said: "We fear that with nine million deaths a year, we are pushing the envelope on the amount of pollution the Earth can carry." He added: "We always hear 'we can't afford to clean up pollution' — I say we can't afford not to clean it up." Jeva Lange