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U.S. Is 7th Deadliest Country for Pollution

Health + Wellness
NYC Skyline seen at sunset. Thijs Stoop / Unsplash

The U.S. is the wealthiest country to make an appearance on a list ranking the 10 nations with the most pollution-related deaths, The Guardian reported Wednesday.


The list is part of the latest report from the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP) on the global health impacts of air, water and workplace pollution. Overall, pollution was responsible for 15 percent of deaths worldwide in 2017, remaining the No. 1 environmental killer. Pollution kills three times more people every year than HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria put together, according to The Guardian, and 15 times more people than war or violence.

"The report reminds us all that pollution is a global crisis. It does not matter where you live. Pollution will find you," GAHP acting Executive Director Rachael Kupka said in a press release.

Pollution is deadliest in India, where it claimed 2,326,771 lives. China came next with 1,865,566 deaths and Nigeria third with 279,318. The U.S. ranked seventh, higher than Russia, Ethiopia and Brazil, with 196,930 deaths.


The findings come as the Trump administration has worked to roll back both air and water pollution standards. At the same time, the climate crisis is making air pollution in the U.S. worse, partly because it increases wildfires.

"We're facing serious risks from pollution and those risks are exacerbated by climate change. The U.S. has historically been the gold standard in tackling pollution, and today we are sadly not doing enough and the fact that we're going backward is unconscionable," former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said in the press release. "This report reminds us that climate change isn't just about faraway countries or forest fires and floods – it's about our health and the health of our kids – here and now."

However, report coauthor and chair of the GAHP board of directors Richard Fuller said that the figures, from 2017, wouldn't account yet for the full impact of Trump rollbacks.

"We won't pick up the extra deaths for a few years, but it doesn't look good for the US," he told The Guardian. "The [regulatory] roll-backs could lead to the US moving up the chart, and as always it will be poor communities who are disproportionately affected."

The report also listed the countries with the most deaths per 100,000 people and the most deaths from air pollution specifically. The second list featured many smaller countries and was led by Chad, the Central African Republic and North Korea. India, the only country to make all three lists, came in 10th with 174 deaths per 100,000 people.

"India has seen increasing industrial and vehicular pollution from urban growth while poor sanitation and contaminated indoor air persist in low-income communities," the report said, according to an AFP article published by Phys.Org.

Overall, air pollution accounted for 40 percent of worldwide pollution deaths, AFP reported. China and India led that list as well, with their spots reversed, and Pakistan came in third. The U.S. was seventh on this list as well, and ambient air pollution was to blame for more than half of the pollution-related deaths in the country, GAHP said.

The full ranking of air pollution deaths per country is as follows:

  1. China: 1,242,987 deaths
  2. India: 1,240,529
  3. Pakistan: 128,005
  4. Indonesia: 123,753
  5. Bangladesh: 122,734
  6. Nigeria: 114,115
  7. United States of America: 107,507
  8. Russian Federation: 99,392
  9. Brazil: 66,245
  10. Philippines: 64,386

Overall, air pollution kills more people every year than tobacco, which kills around 8 million, AFP reported.

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