A Lancet Commission report [thelancet.com] has found that pollution is now the leading cause of disease and death worldwide [npr.org]:
Exposure to polluted air, water and soil caused nine million premature deaths [cancer.gov] in 2015, according to a report published Thursday in The Lancet.
The causes of death vary — cancer, lung disease, heart disease. The report links them to pollution, drawing upon previous studies that show how pollution is tied to a wider range of diseases than previously thought.
Those studies observed populations exposed to pollutants and compared them to people not exposed. The studies have shown that pollution can be an important cause of diseases — many of them potentially fatal — including asthma, cancer, neurodevelopmental disorders, birth defects in children, heart disease, stroke and lung disease.
The nine million figure adds up to 16 percent of all deaths worldwide, killing three times more people than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Pollution is responsible for 15 times more deaths than wars and all other forms of violence. "No country is unaffected," the report notes. But 92 percent of those deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries.
Air pollution deaths in Southeast Asia are expected to double by 2050.
Related: Pollution responsible for quarter of deaths of young children, says WHO [theguardian.com]