If you are fortunate to have them, you may take two things for granted: fresh air and clean water. As you normalize them in your everyday life, it can be difficult to imagine a different reality. But unfortunately, millions of people around the world breathe dirty air and use unsafe water.
The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health recently published research detailing the extent of worldwide pollution. In 2015, an estimated 9 million people died prematurely due to pollution, including air, water and work-related sources. Specifically, water pollution caused 1.8 million deaths alone. Contaminated drinking water sources are a leading cause of these fatalities. According to the Lancet, small children are most at risk of harm from pollution, as even small exposures early in life can cause lifelong disease, disability and premature death, and reduce learning and earning potential.
Because many of us (myself included) are fortunate to have access to safe drinking water, the alternative can feel miles away, literally and figuratively. In this case, quantitative data brings it closer.
The Lancet’s research offers a call to action. Governments, organizations, companies and individuals around the world can help reduce pollution. Industrial facilities, particularly, have the opportunity to make a large impact, as their environmental imprint is large. Safely treating and reusing or disposing of industrial water and wastewater protects the streams, rivers, lakes and aquifers that eventually meet our faucets and food worldwide. I am of the opinion that safe industrial practices protect the environment, ultimately saving lives.
Increasingly strict industrial regulations in the U.S. help protect the environment. But not all countries control pollution. What is your take on regulation? As U.S. regulation becomes more difficult to comply with, are the global and long-term benefits worth the price? Let me know at [email protected].