Pollution has steep price in lives lost, economic damages

2 min read

Toxic air, water, and soil contribute annually to 9 million deaths and $4.6 trillion in economic damages globally, according to a new report by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health. Illness and death related to pollution in less-developed nations cut productivity and slashed economic output by 1 percent to 2 percent annually, the report said. About one in six deaths worldwide are caused by pollution.

The report represents an “extremely comprehensive and rigorous quantification” of pollution costs, said Francesca Dominici, professor of biostatistics at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and co-director of the Harvard Data Science Initiative, in an Oct. 19, 2017 Bloomberg article.

“In the scientific community, I don’t think there is any disagreement about the cost-benefit analysis of controlling pollution,” said Dominici, who was not involved in the study. For example, she said, reducing air pollution from vehicles and power plants would boost human health and reduce carbon emissions. “The major barrier has been political, but not scientific.”

Read the Bloomberg article: Pollution’s Annual Price Tag? $4.6 Trillion and 9 Million Dead

Learn more

A call for stricter air pollution standards (Harvard Chan School’s This Week in Health podcast)

Air pollution within legal limits may increase risk of early death
(Harvard Chan School feature)

Unregulated economic growth could lead to irreversible environmental destruction
(Harvard Chan School news)

Nationwide study of U.S. seniors strengthens link between air pollution and premature death (Harvard Chan School press release)

Balancing economic growth and environmental protection (Harvard Chan School’s This Week in Health podcast)