Air pollution killing people
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12 September 2016
Author :   Protus Nabongo
Black carbon emiting kerosene lamps are mostly used by the poor : >> Image Credits by:Isaiah Esipisu

Air pollution has emerged as the fourth leading risk factor for premature deaths worldwide.

The deaths from air pollution cost the global economy about US$225 billion in lost labor income in 2013, a new study finds, pointing toward the economic burden of air pollution, according to a World Bank report.

The report titled The Cost of Air Pollution: Strengthening the economic case for action, released yesterday, is a joint study of the World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), and 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 one per cent - 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 per cent 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.

When looking at fatalities across all age groups through the lens of "welfare losses", an approach commonly used to evaluate the costs and benefits of environmental regulations in a given country context, the aggregate cost of premature deaths was more than US$5 trillion worldwide in 2013.

In East and South Asia, welfare losses related to air pollution were the equivalent of about 7.5 percent of GDP.

"Air pollution is a challenge that threatens basic human welfare, damages natural and physical capital, and constrains economic growth. We hope this study will translate the cost of premature deaths into an economic language that resonates with policy makers so that more resources will be devoted to improving air quality," said Laura Tuck, Vice President for Sustainable Development at the World Bank.

She added, "By supporting healthier cities and investments in cleaner sources of energy, we can reduce dangerous emissions, slow climate change, and most importantly save lives."

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