Poor air quality and chemical pollutants like lead continue to have a very negative impact on lifespan.

Pollution was indeed responsible for the premature death of nine million people in 2019, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal

Lancet

.

Above all, four years after a first report, the situation has not changed.

About one in six premature deaths worldwide is pollution-related, laments the

Lancet

Commission on Pollution and Health .

Pollution and waste created by humans released into the air, water and soil rarely kill directly, but cause serious heart disease, cancer, respiratory problems or acute diarrhoea.

Low- and middle-income countries particularly affected

“The health effects remain enormous, and low- and middle-income countries are bearing the brunt of them,” summarizes lead author and co-director of the commission Richard Fuller.

They account for 92% of these deaths and most of the resulting economic losses.

“Attention and funding have increased only marginally since 2015, despite a well-documented increase in public concern about pollution and its health effects,” he laments.

While premature deaths linked to the types of pollution associated with extreme poverty are falling, those linked to air pollution and pollution by chemical products are increasing.

"The effect of pollution on health is still far greater than that of war, terrorism, malaria, HIV, tuberculosis, drugs and alcohol, and the number of deaths caused by pollution rivals that caused by tobacco,” the study points out.

In 2019, 6.7 million premature deaths were attributable to air pollution, 1.4 million to water pollution, 900,000 to lead poisoning.

Exposure to lead can also cause delays in the cognitive development of children.

“Modern” forms of pollution

In addition, while pollution-related mortality within the household (related to fuel combustion or water or sanitation problems) has declined, particularly in Africa, "modern" forms of pollution weigh considerably more than twenty years ago.

In 2000, premature deaths linked to ambient air pollution amounted to 2.9 million, and 4.5 million in 2019.

Fine particles and ozone in the air, exposure to lead, carcinogens in the context of his work, chemical pollution in the environment, are gaining ground, especially in Asia.

And Richard Fuller warns: “if we fail to develop in a clean and ecological way, then what we are doing is terribly wrong”.

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