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Pollution Kills 9 Million People a Year as Fixes Are Neglected

A global health analysis reaches a grim toll of premature deaths caused by air, water and chemical pollution.

Traffic travels along a highway shrouded in smog in Lahore, Pakistan in December 2021. The city of more than 11 million people in Punjab province near the border with India consistently ranks among the worst cities in the world for air pollution.

Traffic travels along a highway shrouded in smog in Lahore, Pakistan in December 2021. The city of more than 11 million people in Punjab province near the border with India consistently ranks among the worst cities in the world for air pollution.

Photographer: Asad Zaidi/Bloomberg

Premature deaths from common pollution sources have risen by two-thirds globally since 2000, a dark consequence of the economic development that has lifted millions from extreme poverty this century. More than 90% of the deaths have occurred in rapidly developing low- and middle-income countries, according to research published today in The Lancet Planetary Health.

As population and wealth in poorer countries have increased over the last two decades, so have the number of power plants, goods manufacturers and cars on the road. This is having deadly consequences in areas where pollution mitigation standards have not been put in place, according to Richard Fuller, lead author and founder of both the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution network and the nonprofit Pure Earth.