Friday, September 14, 2007

40% of deaths caused by pollution

According to this article a recent Cornell study shows that 40% of all deaths are directly or indirectly cause by pollution.

A recent Cornell research project concluded that pollution deserves a place alongside heart disease and cancer on the list of leading causes of death worldwide. Contamination of water, air and soil leads to 40 percent of the planet’s death toll, according to a study conducted by Prof. David Pimentel, ecology and evolutionary Biology.

We all know the direct causes such as arsenic in the drinking water, or mercury fumes etc., but the indirect causes might be less obvious.

The project focuses on how deteriorating environmental conditions and population growth are affecting the spread of diseases. According to the results, 62 million deaths each year are due to organic or chemical pollutants. Pimentel said that diseases like malaria, E. coli, salmonella, AIDS and tuberculosis are escalating due to the increased environment.

“Mosquitoes are much happier in polluted water. They spread a lot of serious diseases, like West Nile Virus and malaria,” Pimentel said.

So polluting water might not only lead directly to deaths (through poisoning and cancer) but also indirectly through increased frequency of malaria.

Of course, the study is pretty broad in its definition of what is caused by polution

The study classified malnutrition as an environmental impact issue because it results from a lack of adequate nutrients. Rainfall, temperatures and water quality all effect food production, and are issues of land and water, subject to pollution.

In some cases malnutrition is certainly an environmental impact issue, but in other cases, it's not. Street children can live in a somewhat healthy environment, yet still suffer from malnutrition.

Still, an interesting study.

Cornell's own coverage of the study can be found here, and includes a link to the study, which unfortunately is behind a paywall.

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Blogger Glendon Mellow said...

Fascinating & depressing.

I suffer from 'brittle' asthma, my bronchioles like to constrict for any reason (perfume, heavy food scents, etc) and I know smog on Toronto, Canada contributes to my discomfort from early spring to late fall.

What kills asthmatics is heart failure; I take care to exercise when I can, walking or cycling to work. The more popularity studies like this get, the better chance society at large will have of tackling the problems caused by pollution.

September 16, 2007 1:57 PM  

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