Pollution linked to nine million deaths each year worldwide, equivalent to 1 in 6 deaths


It kills more people than malaria, AIDs, and TB combined

Prof. Niladri Basu, McGill University, is one of the Commissioners on The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health which was released today.

Nil Basu’s research, mainly in Africa, is on:

1.     artisanal and small-scale gold mining (there are approximately 100 million people worldwide practicing mining like this in very unsafe conditions)

2.     electronic waste recycling (E-waste). Does work on the world’s largest e-waste dump in Agbogbloshie, Ghana.

Report highlights

  • Air pollution is the biggest contributor, linked to 6.5 million deaths in 2015, while water pollution (1.8 million deaths) and workplace-related pollution (0.8 million deaths) pose the next largest risks. 
  •  Almost all pollution-related deaths (92%) occur in low- and middle-income countries, and in rapidly industrialising countries (such as India, Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Madagascar and Kenya), deaths due to pollution can account for up to one in four deaths, disproportionately affecting the poor and marginalised in every country worldwide.
  • Most of these deaths are due to non-communicable diseases caused by pollution such as heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  
  • With many emerging chemical pollutants still to be identified, these figures are likely to underestimate the true burden of pollution-related disease and death. 
  • Welfare losses due to pollution are estimated to cost more than US$4.6 trillion each year, equivalent to 6.2% of global economic output. 

 Profile of Niladri Basu

Why did you decide to join the Lancet Commission on Pollution + Health? 

Clean food, water, and air are basic human rights, yet my research that takes me across Africa to Asia to the Arctic constantly reminds me of our pollution paradox.  We must band together, anchor our advocacy in the vast evidence base, and speak up.

What impact will the work of the Commission have?

The Commission will raise awareness on the consequences of global pollution and outline ways in which we can reverse course.  The environment is a major cause for so much suffering and disease worldwide, yet few are aware of this.  Few are also aware that pollution is preventable and that change is possible.  

How can we overcome obstacles to progress in the fight against pollution? What changes do you hope to see in your lifetime?

As a university professor I am a firm believer of education, empowerment, and communication.

We need to educate our population, ranging from those in our primary schools to those who occupy the highest offices in business and government. We need to empower communities, from local ones who face disproportionate toxic exposures to our global one given that none of us are exempt from a polluted planet. We need to communicate our scientific knowledge.  This knowledge is vast and deep, it spans across the natural, social, and medical sciences, and it provides the evidence base for us to act. The Commission Report will help achieve all of these.