Pollution toll 2.5m in India

A woman wears a mask and filter as she walks to work during heavy pollution in Beijing China

Deaths caused by pollution topped 9 million in 2015, or three times the figure from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, and nearly 15 times as many as war and other forms of violence, scientists say.

At 6.5 million premature deaths globally, air pollution was the leading cause of deaths in 2015. Most of these deaths happened through heart diseases, stroke, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

It says air, soil and water pollution and exposure to toxic chemicals killed three times more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined and 15 times more people than war and violence.

Researchers, including those from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi and Icahn School of Medicine in the U.S., pointed out that nearly 92 per cent pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

The alarm was sounded in Thursday's report by The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, an worldwide group of over 40 authors writing on health and environment.

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Types of pollution associated with industrial development, such as ambient air pollution (including ozone), chemical, occupational pollution and soil pollution, have increased from 4.3 million (9.2 per cent) in 1990 to 5.5 million (10.2 per cent) in 2015 as countries reach higher levels of development.

Brunei and Sweden had the lowest numbers of pollution-related deaths.

The commission has also released an interactive global map illustrating some pollution sites around the world.

"We're hoping this document guides policy-making and future research", said Mukesh Khare, professor of civil engineering at IIT Delhi and a member of the commission.

Air pollution deaths result mainly from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, while water pollution deaths result from gastrointestinal disorders.

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