Pollution blamed for one-third of world deaths

New York: More than 40 percent of world deaths are caused by pollution, according to new research from Cornell University.

In an article published online on July 31, 2007 in the journal Human Ecology, the researchers blame pollution of the air, water and soil, which, combined with population growth, increase the susceptibility of 3.7 billion people to disease and malnourishment.

Professor of ecology and agricultural sciences David Pimentel, and his team reviewed data from over 120 published reports concerning the effects of population growth, malnutrition and environmental degradation on human diseases.

They found that the percentage of the world’s population experiencing malnutrition has increased from 20 percent in 1950 to 57 percent of the current population of 6.5 billion. Malnutrition not only is directly responsible for deaths, but renders humans susceptible to respiratory infections, malaria, and many other potentially fatal diseases.

Lack of clean water is responsible for the death of 1.2 to 2.7 million people per year due to waterborne infections. Air pollution is estimated to take approximately 3 million lives per year, due to cancer, birth defects, immune system defects, and other diseases caused by exposure to smoke and various chemicals. Urban crowding, combined with a lack of sanitation, increases exposure to epidemics such as influenza and measles, over 5 million annually.

Contamination of the soil and erosion spreads microbes and toxins, resulting in additional disease and death. Global warming and changes in biological diversity increase the ability of exotic species to invade new areas, resulting in the re-emergence of some diseases as major threats, and the creation of new ones.

“A growing number of people lack basic needs, like pure water and ample food,” Dr Pimental concluded. “They become more susceptible to diseases driven by malnourishment, and air, water and soil pollutants.”