Pollution kills 9 million people a year
October 23, 2017 10:05 AM   Subscribe

Study finds pollution is deadlier than war, disaster, hunger. "Environmental pollution—from filthy air to contaminated water—is killing more people every year than all war and violence in the world. More than smoking, hunger or natural disasters. More than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. One out of every six premature deaths in the world in 2015—about 9 million—could be attributed to disease from toxic exposure, according to a major study released Thursday in the Lancet medical journal. The financial cost from pollution-related death, sickness and welfare is equally massive, the report says, costing some $4.6 trillion in annual losses—or about 6.2 percent of the global economy."

The Human and Financial Cost of Pollution
There has been a long-standing debate on the risks of many chemicals and for many years the chemical industry has dominated the toxic substance regulatory process through both Republican and Democratic administrations. The precautionary principle, used to test all drugs before they are released to market, is not used when we introduce new chemicals. Perhaps that is because we do not ingest these chemicals deliberately and directly into our bodies. But we do come into direct contact with them in our air, food and water. Sadly, we are all like those canaries that were once lowered into the coal mine to see if the air was safe for miners to breathe. If the canary came back dead, we didn’t send the miners down; if the canary came back alive, all was well and the miners could go to work. We are all the test dummies for the chemical industry and everyone else that releases toxics into our environment. In the interest of pursuing jobs, jobs, jobs―mostly these days for robots, robots, robots―we are willing to unleash new chemicals on the world and assume they are safe. Even when chemicals are proven harmful or are suspected to be dangerous, the chemical industry can’t be troubled with providing the government with the data needed to assess the danger.
The Lancet Calls Out EPA Chief Scott Pruitt’s Pro–Pollution Stance
The prestigious British medical journal The Lancet just released a sobering report on the world’s dangerous problem of pollution.

In an editorial about that report, Lancet editors Pamela Das and Richard Horton accused U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and his agency of “undermining established environmental regulations.”

This criticism of a climate change denier in bed with the polluting industries his agency is meant to regulate is a shot across the bow, warning that the rest of the world no longer views the United States under the administration of Donald Trump as a leader on world environmental, economic, and health issues.
posted by homunculus (32 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
NPR has a short history of the EPA (Feb. 2017), which notes that the agency has faced budget cuts before, most notably under Reagan's first term, but
Within two years, the agency's administrator Anne Gorsuch — mother of current Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch — was forced to resign because of an administrative scandal. Another EPA official was thrown in jail for lying to Congress under oath. Ruckelshaus was called back in to right the ship and he says that public support for the agency swelled. Again, it became an important issue to voters and the political calculation changed with it.
William Ruckelshaus, a Republican, was initially hired under Nixon, and believes in the agency operating in a fair and balanced way, not overburdening companies, but not giving them free reign in the name of profits. But pollution has changed, in part thanks to efforts by the EPA and other similar agencies.
"People can't touch, smell and feel pollution the way they did back in the 1960s, the 1970s," Ruckelshaus says. "I think the EPA and state agencies have become a victim of their own success."
The majority of Americans feel that the environment is worth saving and protecting, but people don't vote on the issue. So now we have Prewitt, a friend to business interests and not the American people and environment.

In March of this year, Ruckelhaus published an Op-Ed in the New York Times: A Lesson Trump and the E.P.A. Should Heed
posted by filthy light thief at 11:15 AM on October 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Some days this is the only response that i have.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:22 AM on October 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

more data like this please! We can make huge gains in this area, we just need to keep the conversation going
posted by rebent at 11:34 AM on October 23, 2017

Related: China Shuts Down Tens Of Thousands Of Factories In Unprecedented Pollution Crackdown (NPR, October 23, 2017)
Entire industrial regions of China are being temporarily shut down, and the unusual sight of blue skies is reappearing as environmental inspectors go about their work. After decades of doing little about the pollution that has plagued much of the country, China's government may be finally getting serious about enforcing its environmental laws.

"So, basically, you're seeing these inspectors go into factories for surprise inspections," says Gary Huang, founder of 80/20 Sourcing, which connects foreign clients with China's supply chain. "They're instituting daily fines, and sometimes — in the real severe cases — criminal enforcement. People are getting put in jail."

In the past year, China's Ministry of Environment has sent inspectors to 10 provinces, where they've reprimanded, fined, or charged officials in more than 80,000 factories with criminal offenses. Entire swaths of Eastern China have halted production, prompting some companies to move entire supply chains to countries like India and Bangladesh to meet their orders.
So now we should look to see how things are doing in India (decreasing air quality, improving water quality) and Bangladesh (worse off than India, also with decreasing air quality, improving water quality), because this may just be an international game of whack-a-polluter.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:52 AM on October 23, 2017 [6 favorites]

One final tangent, for now: EPA says it won’t cut biofuel quotas after corn states push back -- Agency will keep Renewable Fuel Standard despite earlier moves to help fossil fuels. (Megan Geuss for Ars Technica, Oct. 20, 2017) -- a round-up of articles on corn-belt politicians and lobbyists pushing against petroleum interests who wanted Obama-era rules rolled back.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:56 AM on October 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yes I knew pollution was a bad thing, I've always thought that and wondered why people allowed it to happen. It's a shame human beings are so stupid. I'd like to renounce this entire species and also this entire era in history please.
posted by rubber duck at 11:58 AM on October 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yes I knew pollution was a bad thing, I've always thought that and wondered why people allowed it to happen.

Because it's not a bad thing for the people who own the factories. Not having to pay for handling it makes them richer, and it's poor people in their own country or outsourced somewhere that have to deal with it.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:04 PM on October 23, 2017 [8 favorites]

Tell Me What Is 'Conservative' About This. The oceans are not partisan.

Reality has a liberal bias.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:38 PM on October 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

'Conservative' = 'Short-term profitable, to Hell with larger concerns'
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:17 PM on October 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Pollution is also distributed unequally with regards to race and income in the US, because of course.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:50 PM on October 23, 2017 [6 favorites]

EPA says it won’t cut biofuel quotas after corn states push back

To be clear, let's not pretend this has anything to do with care for the environment. The LC costs of bioethanol are not clear at all---they're not hugely positive for CO2 analysis. This is mostly about ensuring subsidies for the big corn companies, like ADM.
posted by bonehead at 4:54 PM on October 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

"Study finds that pollution is deadlier than war, disaster, and hunger."

So we "environmentalists" are not cranks, after all? I guess it turns out that those of us who are concerned about the fate of our "environment," in other words, the planet that sustains us, are not crazy. This seems to be an important conclusion from a most reputable source, however, no one seems to care. (I'm listening to Marvin Gaye's music right now about how nobody cares about the world anymore, so I'm a little despondent.)
posted by kozad at 7:38 PM on October 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

onion: Scott Pruitt Nervously Picks Up Walking Pace As Hundreds Of Whooping Cranes Begin Silently Perching Around Him
WASHINGTON—Realizing with a shudder that he was being watched, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt reportedly picked up his pace while walking home Tuesday as hundreds of whooping cranes began silently perching around him.

posted by sebastienbailard at 10:37 PM on October 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

EPA keeps US scientists from presenting climate report, agency accused of censorship

This is how the serious shit starts.
posted by bonehead at 11:07 PM on October 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

nytimes's Eric Lipton

Why Has the E.P.A. Shifted
on Toxic Chemicals? An Industry
Insider Helps Call the Shots
A scientist who worked for the chemical industry now
shapes policy on hazardous chemicals. Within the
E.P.A., there is fear that public health is at risk.

WASHINGTON — For years, the Environmental Protection Agency has struggled to prevent an ingredient once used in stain-resistant carpets and nonstick pans from contaminating drinking water.

The chemical, perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, has been linked to kidney cancer, birth defects, immune system disorders and other serious health problems.

So scientists and administrators in the E.P.A.’s Office of Water were alarmed in late May when a top Trump administration appointee insisted upon the rewriting of a rule to make it harder to track the health consequences of the chemical, and therefore regulate it.

The revision was among more than a dozen demanded by the appointee, Nancy B. Beck, after she joined the E.P.A.’s toxic chemical unit in May as a top deputy. For the previous five years, she had been an executive at the American Chemistry Council, the chemical industry’s main trade association.


The E.P.A. and Dr. Beck declined repeated requests to comment that included detailed lists of questions.

“No matter how much information we give you, you would never write a fair piece,” Liz Bowman, a spokeswoman for the E.P.A., said in an email. “The only thing inappropriate and biased is your continued fixation on writing elitist clickbait trying to attack qualified professionals committed to serving their country.”

Before joining the E.P.A., Ms. Bowman was a spokeswoman for the American Chemistry Council.

posted by sebastienbailard at 11:26 PM on October 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

We need to clean this world up!
posted by MWatkins at 2:41 AM on October 24, 2017

"Why Has the E.P.A. Shifted
on Toxic Chemicals? An Industry
Insider Helps Call the Shots

A scientist who worked for the chemical industry now
shapes policy on hazardous chemicals. Within the
E.P.A., there is fear that public health is at risk. "

These are the worst haikus I've ever seen.
posted by Grither at 9:40 AM on October 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

Scott Pruitt Nervously Picks Up Walking Pace As Hundreds Of Whooping Cranes Begin Silently Perching Around Him

Wait, Pruitt isn't related to Anansi, is he? It sounds like Bird is pissed off again.
posted by homunculus at 12:13 PM on October 24, 2017

This seems to be an important conclusion from a most reputable source, however, no one seems to care.

A lot of conservatives never accepted the Lancet's conclusions about the death toll in Iraq, so they'll probably point to that as they dismiss this report too.
posted by homunculus at 12:17 PM on October 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Puerto Rico, lost in limbo
The Navy's toxic legacy: For decades, the U.S. Navy had a major base on Puerto Rico, and used the territory's nearby Vieques Island as a bombing range. The Roose­velt Roads Naval Station, opened by FDR in 1940, was a launchpad for the U.S. invasions of the Dominican Republic in 1965, Grenada in 1983, and Haiti in 1994, and it boosted Puerto Rico's economy. But Vieques residents said the relentless bombing was destroying the environment, and after a stray bomb killed a civilian and prompted major protests, the Navy closed the base in 2004. Vieques is now a Superfund site contaminated with lead, Agent Orange, and depleted uranium. Its 9,000 residents have rates of cancer that are 27 percent higher than those for the rest of Puerto Rico, and testing reveals that many people's bodies have toxic levels of lead, arsenic, and mercury. But the U.S. gov­ern­ment denies any connection between the bombing and the high cancer rates, saying its own studies revealed "no apparent public health hazard."
posted by homunculus at 2:51 PM on October 28, 2017

Trump’s Legacy: Damaged Brains. This is what a common pesticide does to a child’s brain.
The pesticide, which belongs to a class of chemicals developed as a nerve gas made by Nazi Germany, is now found in food, air and drinking water. Human and animal studies show that it damages the brain and reduces I.Q.s while causing tremors among children. It has also been linked to lung cancer and Parkinson’s disease in adults.


This chemical, chlorpyrifos, is hard to pronounce, so let’s just call it Dow Chemical Company’s Nerve Gas Pesticide. Even if you haven’t heard of it, it may be inside you: One 2012 study found that it was in the umbilical cord blood of 87 percent of newborn babies tested.

And now the Trump administration is embracing it, overturning a planned ban that had been in the works for many years.
posted by homunculus at 10:16 AM on October 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Here’s the Expertise Scott Pruitt Is Removing From the EPA’s Advisory Boards: These academic scientists will no longer be able to serve because of “conflict of interest.” Pruitt will likely replace them with industry scientists.

EPA names industry, state officials to advisory boards
Tony Cox, the new head of the clean air committee, runs a consulting firm serving oil and chemical clients. He has published research questioning whether recent reductions in pollutants like fine particulate matter and ozone yields health benefits, which runs contrary to the EPA’s position.

Robert Phalen of the University of California, Irvine is a new science board member. He has argued that current air quality in the United States is too clean for “optimum health.”
posted by homunculus at 11:44 AM on November 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

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