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Air, water pollution still main of deaths -Report

By Alfred Koroma

A report published last week by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health has revealed that household air pollution and water pollution are still the predominant causes of pollution-related diseases and deaths in Africa.

 But, the report says the amount of ambient air pollution and the number of deaths from air-pollution-related Non-Communicable Diseases have begun to increase as African countries develop economically, industrialised, build infrastructure, and become increasingly urbanized. Increases are most marked in the most rapidly emerging African economies, the report states.

However, Data shows that there has been improvement in the mortality rate (number of deaths per 100 000 population) attributable to PM2·5 in some cities in Africa.

According to the report, pollution killed 9 million people globally per year, accounting for one in six deaths.

In 2019, pollution was responsible for approximately 9·0 million premature deaths.  Both household and ambient air pollution, remains responsible for the greatest number of deaths, causing 6·7 million deaths in 2019 while water pollution was responsible for 1·4 million premature deaths.

The Lancet Commission noted pollution’s deep inequity, saying 92% of pollution-related deaths, and the greatest burden of pollution’s economic losses, occur in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Despite ongoing efforts by UN agencies, committed groups, committed individuals, and some national governments, little real progress against pollution can be identified overall, particularly in the low-income and middle-income countries, where pollution is most severe, the report says, adding that urgent attention is needed to control pollution and prevent pollution-related disease, with an emphasis on air pollution and lead poisoning, and a stronger focus on hazardous chemical pollution.

The report titled Pollution and Health: a progress update was published by Richard Fuller and team.

The report presents an updated estimate of the effects of pollution on health, made on the basis of the GBD 2019 data, and also makes an assessment of trends since 2000. The data shows that the situation has not improved, and that pollution remains a major global threat to health and prosperity, particularly in LMICs

The team suggests that global efforts synergise with other global environmental policy programmes, especially as a large-scale, and rapidly transition away from all fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy as an effective strategy for preventing pollution while also slowing down climate change.

“The thing with pollution is that no one actually dies from pollution directly. They die because pollution gives them a disease that then kills them,” says Fuller, quoted by New Scientist. 

The 2017 Lancet Commission on pollution and health documented that pollution control is highly cost-effective and, because pollution, climate change, and biodiversity loss are closely linked, actions taken to control pollution have a high potential to also mitigate the effects of those other planetary threats, thus producing a double or even a triple benefit.

Among others, the report recommends that all sectors integrate pollution control into plans to address other key threats such as climate, biodiversity, food, and agriculture.

It also recommends that International organisations and national governments continue expanding focus on pollution as one of the triumvirate of global environmental issues, alongside climate change and biodiversity.

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