Air pollution has emerged as the fourth leading risk factor for premature deaths worldwide. The deaths cost the global economy about $225 billion in lost labour 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), estimates that around 5.5 million lives were lost in 2013 to diseases associated with outdoor and household air pollution, causing human suffering and reducing economic development.
The study, released early this month, discovers that while pollution- related deaths strike mainly young children and the elderly, premature deaths also result in lost labour income for working-age men and women.
It also finds that annual labour 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, labour income losses represent 0.25 percent of GDP, while in Sub-Saharan Africa, where air pollution impairs the earning potential of younger populations, annual labour 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.
It said that 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.
According to the study, about 90 percent of the population in low and middle income countries is exposed to dangerous levels of ambient air pollution, reports BSS.