We recently came across a CNN article titled, "Pollution is linked to 9 million deaths worldwide in 2015". A number like that shocked us while also motivating us to dig a little deeper. CNN provided a link back to sourced the study and we were ready to tackle this 100 page monster! The study was done by The Lancet and as a first time reader of The Lancet, we were impressed.
Below we have compiled our Quick Take of the CNN article and The Lancet study. All references are cited at the end of the article. We provide some personal opinions and we clearly state them. Let's start with a video from the The Lancet with credit to Pure Earth. More on Pure Earth later.
1 in 6
1 in 6 (9 million) global deaths were related to pollution in 2015. Pollution is also the largest environmental cause of disease and premature death in the world .
Low, middle, minority and marginalized
Pollution kills people in poverty - Gina McCarthy
Roughly 92% of all pollution-related deaths occur in low to middle income countries .
In all countries, at all income levels, disease caused by pollution is most common among minorities and the marginalized. Children are at highest risk .
Major Types of Pollution
Air pollution totaled roughly 6.5 million deaths in 2015, water contributed to 1.8 million, occupational 0.8 million and chemical/soil 0.5 million deaths .
The study defined each type of pollution :
Air Pollution: Household air pollution, ambient fine particulate pollution, and tropospheric ozone pollution.
Water Pollution: Unsafe sanitation, and unsafe water sources.
Soil and Chemical: Heavy metals.
Occupational: Carcinogens, and particulates; gases, and fumes found in the workplace.
Fuel combustion accounts for 85% of all airborne particulate pollution. With the major emitters being "carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants, chemical producers, mining operations, deforestation, and petroleum-powered vehicles [1, 2]."
"Coal is the world's most polluting fossil fuel", and one of the most important causes of climate change .
The study highlights chemical pollution as a unique and somewhat unkown type of pollution. We at Soluna Collective are particularly interested in this space, so we wanted to give it a little more attention. The study covered broad chemical pollution, not fashion, design or textile specific.
"140,000 new chemicals and pesticides have been synthesized since 1950" with about 5,000 of them widely dispersed and having universal human impact . Only about half of the 5,000 widely dispersed chemicals have undergone some type of testing for safety and toxicity . "The result is that chemicals and pesticides whose effects on human health and the environment were never examined have repeatedly been responsible for episodes of disease, death, and environmental degradation ." The chemicals include lead, asbestos, DDT (insecticide that was banned in the U.S. in 1972 but still used in some countries), PCB (used in electrical equipment and banned in the U.S. in 1979) and ozone destroying CFC's (nonflammable chemical used in aerosol sprays and other consumer products which was banned in the U.S. in 1996) [1, 3, 4, 5].
Today, we are producing newer chemicals and, "like there predecessors, are still going through little pre-market evaluation" . "They include developmental neurotoxicants, endocrine disruptors, chemical herbicides, novel insecticides, pharmaceutical wastes, and nanomaterials. " Production of these new chemicals is also shifting to the same low and middle income countries as mentioned above. As more research is done on the effects of these chemicals, we are sure to see even more devastation to these communities.
Yes, we have good news!
Most pollution can be eliminated!
For example, the United States passed the Clean Air Act in 1970 and by 2015 it decreased pollution by 70% . In many high-income countries, "their air and water are now cleaner, the blood lead concentrations of their children have decreased by more than 90%, their rivers no longer catch fire, their worst hazardous waste sites have been re-mediated, and many of their cities are less polluted and more livable ."
The Gameplan - SDG's
For us, and as the study notes, governments, organizations, companies and individuals need to adopt and enforce the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set forth by the United Nations.
Cities contain 55% of the world’s people, are responsible for 75% of greenhouse gas emissions, and contain an amazing 85% of the world's economic activity. - Philip Landrigan
Think local. It does not have to be national. Start with your local government; talk to your mayor, senator and/or representative. Demand time-tables, establish short and long-term goals, and hold government accountable.
If you can, vote with your pocket-book. Support companies that are doing it right and donate to organizations that are making a difference. We mention one organization below but there are plenty more!
Trust data and invest in journalism/research. The truth will always win and we must continue to support the people that provide the truth. News happens at a local level. We urge everyone to support local and national organizations that produce news based on facts and data. At Soluna Collective, we are proud members of OPB!
Lastly Pure Earth
We wanted to give a shout out to Pure Earth, who's staff and council provided research for The Lancet study and helped make the video above. Side note, Dev Patel is part of the Leadership Council!
Pure Earth's mission is to: "identify and clean up the poorest communities throughout the developing world where high concentrations of toxins have devastating health effects."
As you may have noticed in the video, Joe Hayes talked about their cleanup project in Kabwe, Zamnia.
They are just a cool company and we wanted to give them a shout out! You can support them by getting involved or hitting the donate button on the top right of their website.
www.pollution.org - Find out about pollution in your neighborhood.
Air pollution kills over 1 million in China (1st), 600k in India (2nd), 38k in the US .
"Welfare losses due to pollution are estimated to amount to US$4·6 trillion per year: 6·2% of global economic output ."
"Research demonstrating that carbon from burning coal in China is in air pollution in LA [CNN]."
Sources:  The Lancet,  CNN,  CDC,  EPA,  ToxTown,  EPA
Photo Sources (order of appearance): CNN, Unknown, NPR, Unknown, NAT GEO, UNDP, Pure Earth