Air pollution kills more than AIDs and malaria: study

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Air pollution is a threat to the poor and could push an additional 100 million people into poverty by 2030, a World Bank report has shown.

The report — a joint study of the Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation — lists air pollution as the fourth cause of death, with sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia accounting for more than half of the estimated 5.5 million lives lost in 2013 to diseases associated with pollution.

This translates to one in every 10 deaths worldwide being attributed to air pollution.

It means six times as many people die from air pollution every year than from malaria and four times more than HIV/AIDs deaths.

It is also more than alcohol and drug abuse, and child and maternal malnutrition deaths, which together account for 9% against air pollution’s 10%.

The deaths cost the global economy about $225 billion (Sh22.5 trillion) in lost labour in 2013.

Sub-Saharan Africa recorded losses equivalent to 0.61% of its Gross Domestic Product.

The study released on 8 September says the poor are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, with about 90% of the population in low- and middle-income countries exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution.

The pollution comes from many sources, including dirt, smoke, vapour, gases, microscopic liquid droplets and heavy metals.

‘Air pollution is a challenge that threatens basic human welfare, damages natural and physical capital and constrains economic growth,’ said Laura Tuck, the Vice-President for sustainable development at the bank.

‘By supporting healthier cities and investments in cleaner sources of energy, we can reduce emissions, slow climate change and save lives.’

Sub-Saharan Africa deaths from household air pollution resulting from cooking with solid fuels remain high despite development gains and improvements in health services.

Those aged 70 and above are the most affected with more than 2.7 million succumbing to such deaths.

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