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Pollution causes 40 percent of deaths worldwide

by C1ay / August 13, 2007 10:39 PM PDT

About 40 percent of deaths worldwide are caused by water, air and soil pollution, concludes a Cornell researcher. Such environmental degradation, coupled with the growth in world population, are major causes behind the rapid increase in human diseases, which the World Health Organization has recently reported. Both factors contribute to the malnourishment and disease susceptibility of 3.7 billion people, he says...

"We have serious environmental resource problems of water, land and energy, and these are now coming to bear on food production, malnutrition and the incidence of diseases," said Pimentel.

Of the world population of about 6.5 billion, 57 percent is malnourished, compared with 20 percent of a world population of 2.5 billion in 1950, said Pimentel. Malnutrition is not only the direct cause of 6 million children's deaths each year but also makes millions of people much more susceptible to such killers as acute respiratory infections, malaria and a host of other life-threatening diseases, according to the research...


Just how much population can our species really tolerate on this planet?

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I question the 40 percent
by dirtyrich / August 13, 2007 10:46 PM PDT

The article cites some of the examples of how pollution affects humans, and some of the "effects" are quite natural like malaria and other biological contaminants. While we can be responsible in some areas for increasing the effect, it is simplistic to say that we are completely responsible for the effect. Mosquitoes and malaria would not disappear without us.

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by C1ay / August 13, 2007 11:03 PM PDT

Mosquitos require animal bllod to survive. As any animal population grows so does their food supply. We are not the only cause from the growth of mosquito and malaria populations but out population growth is certainly a contribuing factor....

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by EdH / August 13, 2007 11:14 PM PDT
In reply to: But...

Westerners, through various means, have prevented a lot of diseases, eradicated mosquitoes, etc., which saves lives, but has the unintended consequence down the line of increasing the population, thus dooming many more. What's the good of being saved from disease if it means you starve to death a few years later?

There used to be a Peace Corps ad on TV that showed how volunteers had made a well, bringing water to an arid area, thus making it "habitable". Even then I wondered at the wisdom of making marginal habitation possible in an area that in other ways was not a good environment for people to live in.

Just something to think about.

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Good question.
by C1ay / August 13, 2007 11:52 PM PDT
In reply to: But...
What's the good of being saved from disease if it means you starve to death a few years later?

How many can we feed? Is there a moral consequence to continue growing a population we can't feed? It's estimated by Hunger Facts: International that 16,000 children a day die from starvation. What benefit is there to the child, or society, to give birth to and raise that starving child just so they can starve to death?
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Isn't there a conflict with religious ideology here?
by grimgraphix / August 14, 2007 2:02 AM PDT
In reply to: Good question.

In many cases, population growth is mandated by our religions.

Isn't it a case where "god" wants hunger to exist if the result of population growth is hunger?

I have my private thought about this, but isn't this the logical result of religious edicts calling for no birth control and the mandate to "multiply"?

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Cause and effect is certainly proportional...
by grimgraphix / August 13, 2007 11:18 PM PDT
In reply to: But...

... and you raise some interesting questions with your original post.

One thing though. If it is just cause of death that is being discussed... well, to be glib but accurate... birth is the leading cause of death.

Pollution may be the culprit now, war and pestilence at another time in history, and so on, and so on. Simply put, you're gonna die of something.

It is a shame though, that mankind is so shortsighted and selfish, that it is willing to create suffering through it's own actions for so many, despite the fact that those actions only benefit a small percentage. Pollution is a prime example of just such an attitude.

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Pollution has been a necessary evil
by dirtyrich / August 13, 2007 11:40 PM PDT

for the creation of society. Millions of people lead healthier, longer, and happier lives because of industry and technology.

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by EdH / August 13, 2007 11:50 PM PDT

we could have zero pollution... and zero everything else.

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True, but where is the tipping point...
by grimgraphix / August 14, 2007 1:57 AM PDT

... between acceptable and unnecessary?

If a certain pollution (I'm not specifying anything in particular here) is technically unavoidable then it is acceptable if the trade off is that people live better lives.

However, if the pollution in question is avoidable??? If we have the technological capability to stop certain sources of pollution, while still being able to produce a product or service that benefits people... then do we not have an ethical responsibility to do so?

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Yes but...
by C1ay / August 14, 2007 2:17 AM PDT
Millions of people lead healthier, longer, and happier lives because of industry and technology.

Is that really a reason that anyone else should suffer consequences as a result? Should it be OK to flush my toilet in the stream when I know that people downstream depend on it for drinking water?
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last time I checked there are few people drinking the water
by dirtyrich / August 14, 2007 7:17 AM PDT
In reply to: Yes but...

from my toilet. Pollution is mostly a local phenomenon, and the US has done a bang up job of preventing pollution from negatively affecting most of its populace.

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Mostly a local problem?
by Bill Osler / August 14, 2007 11:24 AM PDT
Pollution is mostly a local phenomenon

I don't buy that, but I guess it might depend somewhat on what you mean by 'local'. Effects of acid emissions in the atmosphere are hardly limited to a small locality. Excess nitrogen runoff from Midwestern farms creates dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico. There have been various concerns about radioactive fallout in places far removed from nuclear test sites. Just how big is your locality?

the US has done a bang up job of preventing pollution from negatively affecting most of its populace.

Maybe. Certainly we have done a good job with some of the pollutants. I'm not sure we are going a good enough job to get complacent about it. If memory serves there were air quality alerts suggesting that asthmatics and various other people limit their outdoor time on ~4 of the last 7 days in Winston-Salem because of air quality concerns. My annual reports from the water company include all kinds of information about the concentration of various chemicals in the water, some of which are above EPA threshold limits. We certainly are doing a better job than some other countries but I don't think we are there yet.
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Of course it is OK.
by Kiddpeat / August 14, 2007 11:44 AM PDT
In reply to: Yes but...

Water has been used, and reused, for centuries. Any idea how many times a drop of water is reused on its way down the Mississippi? It's been a long time, but, as I recall, it's between five and ten times.

You could, of course, move to the country and build an outhouse. It hasn't been very long since those were used by farm families.

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I remember reading The Population Bomb
by Diana Forum moderator / August 13, 2007 11:52 PM PDT

We've gone way past what he predicted.

The biggest reason for the increase in pollution is the increase in population. One of the reasons for the increase in the death rate is the increase in pollution. Talk about circular reasoning.

Maybe we should encourage people to kill each other - nah.


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Remember the 40% includes fires in huts.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 14, 2007 2:48 AM PDT

They must be including the smoke that comes from the fires in village huts. If so the number is accurate.


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by duckman / August 14, 2007 3:29 AM PDT

Even if you include hut fire smoke, pollution is not the CAUSE of 40% of the deaths

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What percentage do you think is closer to the truth?
by C1ay / August 14, 2007 4:06 AM PDT
In reply to: No,

Can you support it? I don't know how accurate it is but if it's more than 0 it deserves some debate. What percentage of the world's population would you say is acceptable collateral damage from our own pollution?

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I don't know
by duckman / August 14, 2007 6:22 AM PDT

How high of a number would it be to cause you to cry foul on it?

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Greater than 0
by C1ay / August 14, 2007 6:31 AM PDT
In reply to: I don't know

No one deserves to die because of pollution.

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So who deserves to die of anything?
by duckman / August 14, 2007 6:44 AM PDT
In reply to: Greater than 0

Saying 40 of the world's deaths are CAUSED by pollution is unprovable and false.

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Re: aying 40 of the world's deaths....
by C1ay / August 14, 2007 9:17 AM PDT
Saying 40 of the world's deaths are CAUSED by pollution is unprovable and false.

Well consider it this way. It's a theory like any other and a falsifiable theory at that. Can you provide any evidence to support your claim that he is wrong other than, he's wrong because I said so"?

I doubt the 40% number myself but there are a lot of people that die either directly or indirectly because of pollution. Should mankind not expect more from it's own?
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by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 14, 2007 4:47 AM PDT
In reply to: No,
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Again, NO,
by duckman / August 14, 2007 6:21 AM PDT
In reply to: Link.

Pollution may be a FACTOR, but not the cause. A lot like saying poverty causes malnutrition.

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A quibble ...
by Bill Osler / August 14, 2007 11:12 AM PDT
In reply to: Again, NO,
Pollution may be a FACTOR, but not the cause.

The accuracy of that statement may well depend on which pollutant we are talking about.

Some pollutants clearly act as 'risk factors' (ie, exposure to the pollutant is a risk factor) which contribute, along with other risk factors (dietary, genetic, ...) to development of disease. Other pollutants are potentially lethal toxins if the exposure is high enough. I think it would be fair to say, for example, that some of the deaths following Chernobyl were directly and causally attributable to pollution.

Ultimately, though, even though the point you are raising is legitimate it should be possible to assign some deaths to the various pollutants at least from a bookkeeping perspective. In the case of cigarette smoking (as an example) if the rate of lung cancer = x in non-smokers and the rate in smokers = y then epidemiologists will compare x and y to determine what fraction of lung cancers are attributable to lung cancer. That does not mean cigarette smoking is the only cause of any of the lung cancers, but it does at least permit an estimate of how much damage smoking does to the population at large. You could well claim that attributable risk has nothing to do with causality per se but for practical purposes I do not think such careful linguistic distinctions are all that useful or appropriate. If people die at a rate of 12 deaths/1000 people/year in a 'clean' environment but they die at a rate of 20 deaths/1000 people/year in a 'polluted' environment then most of us will find it reasonable to say that 40% of the deaths were 'caused by' 'pollution' (however that ends up being defined). These numbers were obviously made up but they illustrate the point.
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The claim is hard to assess ...
by Bill Osler / August 14, 2007 11:14 AM PDT

My suspicion is that 40% is too high, but I can't defend that suspicion analytically. Unfortunately, I was not able to locate/access the actual article at the publisher's site.

From the information you posted at hypography.com I'm not sure I agree with their methods for assigning cause of death to 'pollution'. Cause of death issues are complex.

For example, I'm not sure how the issues you cited in the hypography.com post re: malnutrition, overcrowding and hygiene tie in to pollution.

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The article is not in print yet...
by C1ay / August 14, 2007 12:40 PM PDT

but the electronic version is here for $32 Sad I noticed that this research was based on more than 120 publish papers from various sources unnamed. I was able to find a number of sources with similar numbers through Google. I also suspect the 40% number but am inclined to believe that a large percentage of global mortality can be linked to pollution.

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By this definition
by Steven Haninger / August 14, 2007 8:48 PM PDT
Pollution is the undesirable state of the natural environment being contaminated with harmful substances as a consequence of human activities

pollutants include:

> bullets and other flying debris during acts of war or other malice
> bacteria and viri expelled into the breathing air by infected persons
> falling objects (aeronautical, satellites, etc.)


> some dangerous weather conditions that some deem to be caused either deliberately or by reckless environmental
policies of our president. Happy
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