The findings come at a time when air pollution levels in India have spiked following bursting of firecrackers on Diwali. Last year, crackers, vehicular pollution, emissions from coal plants, and burning of crop stubble in Punjab and Haryana had created a blanket of smog that lingered for days forcing the Supreme Court to ban the sale of firecrackers in the national capital region.
Air pollution was found to be the biggest culprit around the world, followed by polluted water. The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health also noted that almost all pollution-linked deaths - around 92 percent - were in poor or middle-income countries, and as many as a quarter of such deaths were reported from rapidly industrialising countries including India.
While dirty air -- caused by everything from transport and industry to indoor fires -- was linked to 6.5 million deaths, polluted water is found to have killed 1.8 million people.
Forty experts from the world including former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh who co-authored the report say that pollution is not the inevitable consequence of economic development, and applying similar legislation and regulation from high-income countries to low- and middle-income countries could help in improving and protecting the health of the citizens as countries develop.
"In order to tackle pollution, we must prioritise it as an issue that affects us all, integrating it into health planning, and increasing funding to allow more research into pollution, such as monitoring pollution and its effects, and developing ways to control pollution," says Commission co-lead, Richard Fuller, Pure Earth, USA.
Pollution is much more than an environmental challenge - it is a profound and pervasive threat that affects many aspects of human health and wellbeing, adds Commission co-lead, Professor Philip Landrigan, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, USA.
(With inputs from agencies)