Battling disease

Rich countries solved this problem decades ago, but now millions of poor people are dying from it

Pollution killed nearly 8.9 million people in 2012.

This year, industrialised countries will spend $10.4 billion helping poor countries cut carbon emissions and brace for the impact of climate change. Meanwhile, the world shells out tens of billions a year combating infectious diseases like HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis, spending which continues to rise.

What hardly anyone’s spending on is pollution ‒ even though it’s the most lethal force on the planet, killing nearly 8.9 million people in 2012, the last year for which there was data. Here’s how unnatural causes of death stack up globally:

To be more precise, rich countries do spend on cleaning up the environment ‒ mainly just their own, though. Yet poor countries suffer the majority of pollution’s lethal impact: 94% of the people that are sickened by toxic air, soil, and water each year live in the developing world, according to a report just published [pdf] by the Blacksmith Institute, Global Alliance on Health and Pollution, and Green Cross Switzerland, three non-government organizations.

Part of the problem is that the nations with egregious pollution woes tend also to be the poorest. Most can only allot no more than 1-2% of their national annual budget to dealing with it ‒ often equal to a few hundred thousand dollars ‒ says David Hanrahan, advisor to GAHP.

Another is that, unlike specific infectious diseases, pollution causes a broad range of symptoms, says Green Cross Switzerland’s Nathalie Gysy. “Pollution is not a priority concern in poorer countries in part because it’s often invisible to the eye and doesn’t leave a clear fingerprint on its victims,” she says.

And since rich countries have long since forgotten their own struggles with crippling levels of pollution in the 1950s and ’60s, they tend to neglect it in their foreign aid, adds Gysy.

That doesn’t mean rich countries are necessarily insulated from the pollutants sickening their poorer neighbors. China’s airpocalypse is now turning up in Los Angeles, as well as in Korea and Japan. Meanwhile, mercury runoff from small-time gold mines and coal plants in Asia and Latin America shows up in the wealthy world’s tuna rolls, just as arsenic sometimes taints its rice.

Then there’s the impact to global GDP. The report estimates that the health consequences of air pollution alone costs low- and middle-income countries 6-12% of their GDP a year. Foul air and water are clearly not boosting long-term productivity, either. A growing body of evidence suggests that pollution reduces IQ, including a 2013 study that estimated nearly 200,000 children in seven Asian countries suffered a reduction of between five and 15 IQ points [pdf] as a result of lead poisoning.

By comparing the destructive effects of pollution to those borne by climate change and infectious disease, the groups hope to attract the attention and funding of wealthier countries and organizations. These pollution problems can be relatively inexpensive to combat, say the three groups. For instance, cleaning up a village’s hazardous waste and educating villagers can cost as little as $20 per person.

But poor countries also have a ways to go in recognising pollution’s toll. The 17 “sustainable development goals“ ‒ economic development priorities many such countries helped set, and which the UN will likely soon adopt as its own agenda ‒ include combating climate change and using natural resources sustainably; pollution barely gets a mention.

This article originally appeared on

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Can a colour encourage creativity and innovation?

The story behind the universally favoured colour - blue.

It was sought after by many artists. It was searched for in the skies and deep oceans. It was the colour blue. Found rarely as a pigment in nature, it was once more precious than gold. It was only after the discovery of a semi-precious rock, lapis lazuli, that Egyptians could extract this rare pigment.

For centuries, lapis lazuli was the only source of Ultramarine, a colour whose name translated to ‘beyond the sea’. The challenges associated with importing the stone made it exclusive to the Egyptian kingdom. The colour became commonly available only after the invention of a synthetic alternative known as ‘French Ultramarine’.

It’s no surprise that this rare colour that inspired artists in the 1900s, is still regarded as the as the colour of innovation in the 21st century. The story of discovery and creation of blue symbolizes attaining the unattainable.

It took scientists decades of trying to create the elusive ‘Blue Rose’. And the fascination with blue didn’t end there. When Sir John Herschel, the famous scientist and astronomer, tried to create copies of his notes; he discovered ‘Cyanotype’ or ‘Blueprints’, an invention that revolutionized architecture. The story of how a rugged, indigo fabric called ‘Denim’ became the choice for workmen in newly formed America and then a fashion sensation, is known to all. In each of these instances of breakthrough and innovation, the colour blue has had a significant influence.

In 2009, the University of British Columbia, conducted tests with 600 participants to see how cognitive performance varies when people see red or blue. While the red groups did better on recall and attention to detail, blue groups did better on tests requiring invention and imagination. The study proved that the colour blue boosts our ability to think creatively; reaffirming the notion that blue is the colour of innovation.

When we talk about innovation and exclusivity, the brand that takes us by surprise is NEXA. Since its inception, the brand has left no stone unturned to create excusive experiences for its audience. In the search for a colour that represents its spirit of innovation and communicates its determination to constantly evolve, NEXA created its own signature blue: NEXA Blue. The creation of a signature color was an endeavor to bring something exclusive and innovative to NEXA customers. This is the story of the creation, inspiration and passion behind NEXA:


To know more about NEXA, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of NEXA and not by the Scroll editorial team.