Premature deaths as a result of air pollution are costing the global economy trillions of dollars every year.
A new study from the World Bank found air pollution to be the “deadliest” form of pollution and the fourth leading risk factor for premature deaths worldwide.
It put a “welfare cost” – an approach used to evaluate the costs and benefits of environmental regulations in a given country context – from both indoor and outdoor air pollution and found it to be more than $5 trillion (£3.8tn) in 2013.
That’s the size of the GDP of India, Canada and Mexico combined.
China lost nearly 10% of its GDP, India 7.69% and Sri Lanka and Cambodia roughly 8% in 2013 – the latest year for which global data is available.
Rich countries are also losing billions of dollars, with dirty air found to cost the UK $7.6 billion (£5.7bn) annually, the US $45 billion (£33.7bn) and Germany $18 billion (£13.5bn).
Without including the costs of treating illnesses linked to pollution, the bank calculated premature deaths alone cost the global economy around $225 billion (£169bn) in lost work days.
It also found air pollution now kills 5.5 million – or one in 10 – people a year prematurely worldwide.
In 2013, around 87% of the world’s population lived in areas that exceeded the World Health Organisation’s air quality guidelines.
Laura Tuck, Vice President for Sustainable Development at the World Bank said: “Air pollution is a challenge that threatens basic human welfare, damages natural and physical capital and constrains economic growth.
“We hope this study will translate the cost of premature deaths into an economic language that resonates with policymakers so that more resources will be devoted to improving air quality. By supporting healthier cities and investments in cleaner sources of energy, we can reduce dangerous emissions, slow climate change and most importantly save lives.”