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Air pollution deaths cost global economy $225 billion

Staff Writer |
Air pollution has emerged as the deadliest form of pollution and the fourth leading risk factor for premature deaths worldwide.




Those deaths cost the global economy about $225 billion in lost labor income in 2013, a new study finds, pointing toward the economic burden of air pollution.

The Cost of Air Pollution: Strengthening the economic case for action, a joint study of the World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), seeks to estimate the costs of premature deaths related to air pollution, to strengthen the case for action and facilitate decision making in the context of scarce resources.

An estimated 5.5 million lives were lost in 2013 to diseases associated with outdoor and household air pollution, causing human suffering and reducing economic development.

While pollution-related deaths strike mainly young children and the elderly, premature deaths also result in lost labor income for working-age men and women. The report finds that annual labor income losses cost the equivalent of almost 1 percent – 0.83 percent - of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in South Asia.

In East Asia and the Pacific, where the population is ageing, labor income losses represent 0.25 percent of GDP, while in Sub-Saharan Africa, where air pollution impairs the earning potential of younger populations, annual labor income losses represent the equivalent of 0.61 percent of GDP.

Deaths related to ambient air pollution have risen in heavily populated, fast-urbanizing regions, while deaths related to cooking and heating homes with solid fuels have remained constant despite development gains and improvements in health services.

Diseases attributed to both types of air pollution caused 1 in 10 deaths in 2013, or more than six times the number of deaths caused by malaria.

About 90 percent of the population in low and middle income countries are exposed to dangerous levels of ambient air pollution.


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