Pollution from the healthcare, pharmaceutical and agricultural sectors could see up to 10 million people die each year by 2050.
That’s according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which claims this would emerge due to anti-microbial resistance (AMR).
AMR occurs when bacteria and viruses adapt over time, strengthen and can no longer be quashed with medicine.
The World Health Organisation ranks AMR as a top 10 threat to health worldwide – and in its latest report, the UNEP states pollution will only make this worse.
Pollutants from the three sectors mentioned exacerbates sanitation and sewage systems in developing countries, the report alleges – which will mean many more people will become infected with ‘superbugs’.
UNEP Executive Director, Inger Andersen, said: “Pollution of air, soil, and waterways undermines the human right to a clean and healthy environment. The same drivers that cause environment degradation are worsening the antimicrobial resistance problem. The impacts of anti-microbial resistance could destroy our health and food systems.”
If the predicted levels of 10 million deaths a year are reached by 2050, this would represent the same number of people who died from cancer in 2020.
Lowering pollution levels and implementing new policies to protect water management and sewage infrastructure will be critical in containing this issue, the UNEP states.