Pollution: 17 Facts That Might Surprise You
Think you know about pollution? Here are 15 facts about toxic pollution that you might not have known about.
- Pollution is the #1 cause of death in the developing world. It kills about 10 million people a year.
- Pollution causes three times more deaths than HIV, malaria and tuberculosis.
- Pollution is one of the biggest global threats. Toxic pollution affects over 200 million people worldwide, with tens of thousands poisoned each year.
- Toxic pollution is one of the most underreported global problems despite the huge number of people affected. This is partly due to a lack of data. However, recent research has offered a clearer understanding of the true toll of pollution and added to the growing body of information about the problem. (Read more about the Poisoned Poor)
- Children are particularly vulnerable. While children under six make up only 20% of the world’s population, over 40% of the global burden of disease falls on them. More than three million children under age five die annually from environmental factors. Toxic pollution has a bigger impact on their smaller bodies, interfering with their development, inflicting damage that can last a lifetime. Children can be poisoned just by running around barefoot in their homes or villages.
- The toll from pollution is comparable to that from dangerous diseases. The number of people at risk of death and disease from toxic pollution is greater than those suffering from malaria and close to those afflicted by HIV/AIDS and other diseases, according to Blacksmith’s 2012 World’s Worst Pollution Problems report.
- Pollution is one global problem that CAN BE SOLVED in our lifetime. Life-threatening pollution has already been eliminated in much of the developed world through initiatives like the Superfund in the U.S. and similar efforts in other countries. The technology and know-how to clean up toxic pollution already exists. All that is needed is resources and commitment.
- There are a finite number of worst polluted sites in the world. Blacksmith’s Global Toxic Sites Identification Program has assessed more than 1,600 polluted hotspots in 47 countries and identified an additional 1,000 sites for future screening, growing
Blacksmith’s global database of polluted places. The one-of-a-kind database provides vital information about the magnitude of the problem and serves as a valuable roadmap for prioritizing these sites for global cleanup.
- Pollution solutions are relatively low-cost. A life can be saved with as little as $42 through the removal of hazardous pollution on Blacksmith projects. $20,000 is enough to start a project that saves lives.
- Pollution is mainly caused by small-scale informal operations rather than large multinational companies. However, demand for consumer goods from high-income countries still drive pollution activities in low-income countries.
- Solving pollution problems usually promotes, rather than inhibits, economic growth. Solutions can increase access to valuable resources, such as more efficient recovery of lead from battery recycling, or reclamation of land in urban areas.
- Pollution does not stop even when the source of the pollution is removed. This is called legacy pollution. The Cold War, for example, has left a toxic legacy in the form of derelict and abandoned old weapons and chemical factories. The affected population will continue to suffer unless cleanup is conducted.
- Pollution can vastly lower life expectancy. In some of the world’s worst polluted places life expectancy can be as low as 45 years because of lung, throat and thyroid cancers.
- Death is not the only end result. Pollution causes chronic illness, neurological damage and a range of diseases that might not kill but might incapacitate a person or result in irreversible damage. For instance, the presence of lead in children lowers I.Q. by an estimated 4-7 points for each increase of 10 μg/dL. In some of the world’s worst polluted places, babies are born with birth defects, children have lost 30 to 40 IQ points.
- Pollution affects everyone. While pollution affects the immediate population the most, its effects are felt far and wide because of the globalized economy. In addition, some pollutants, like mercury, travel and drop into rivers and seas worldwide, poisoning the seafood supply.
- The Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP) is the first international coalition of its kind dedicated to addressing the threat of toxic pollution on a global scale. The GAHP has created the world’s largest platform for coordinating resources and launching efforts and innovations to fight toxic pollution. Any low- or medium-income country can approach the GAHP for help with pollution issues.
- Most current international programs regulate the production and use of select toxins and the trans-boundary movement of waste rather than the mitigation or remediation of existing pollution. It is a global problem that is just emerging on the international radar screen. Blacksmith is the leading organization active in toxics cleanup on a global scale.