For the uninitiated, the Environmental Performance Index is a biyearly report that assesses all of the world’s nations on their ability to protect human health and their nation’s ecosystems. Born out of research taking place at the universities of Yale and Columbia, the EPI was first published in 2006, and has since become the global standard for environmental research. By delving into water and air quality, agriculture, biodiversity, fisheries and forests, the EPI is able to create a vivid picture of the environmental issues the world is facing today, and which countries are doing the most to combat them. Here are some of the most surprising findings.


More people are dying because of poor quality air than unsafe water

In 2013, 10 per cent (5.52 million) of all deaths across the globe were caused by poor air quality. Comparatively, just 2 per cent (1.24 million) of all global deaths were caused by unsafe water. The production of nitrogen dioxide, from road traffic and fossil fuel combustion, has been strongly associated with mortality in cities across the world. Nitrogen dioxide is known to cause respiratory disease as well as aggravate existing heart conditions. It is perhaps best known for its role in the creation of smog however. Nitrogen dioxide combines with volatile organic compounds to produce visible smog, which is as definitive a portrait of air pollution as anything.

Why is unsafe air five times as deadly as unsafe water in today’s world?

1 – Number of people living without access to clean water has been cut nearly in half from 960 million in 2000 to 550 million in 2016

Increased wealth in LEDCs has allowed many nations to invest in proper sanitation infrastructure, dramatically reducing the numbers of people dying from waterborne diseases like dysentery, typhoid and cholera in the process. The institution of safe and sustainable sources of water, accompanied by increased ease of access, has resulted in reduced fatalities from unsafe water.

2 – Half of the world’s population are living in an environment with unsafe air quality

Whilst increased wealth has improved sanitation, it has also brought the hazards of rapid industrialisation with it. India is an example of this. The speedy onset of urbanisation contributed millions of cars to India’s roads every year, which corresponded with the addition of millions of cars’ worth of pollution every year. High rates of respiratory infection have plagued India’s youth, and it is estimated that half of Delhi’s schoolchildren will never recover full lung capacity from damage sustained by inhaling the city’s polluted air.

7.23 per cent of all countries have no wastewater treatment

Not only do 7 per cent of the world’s nations have no means of treating wastewater at all, over 80 per cent of the world’s wastewater is untreated when it is released into the environment. These two statistics are at odds with the UN’s goal of ensuring availability and sustainable management of water for all. One way you can sustainably manage water in your own home is to invest in a grey water pump — it recycles all the wastewater from your shower, dishwasher and sink and repurposes it for use elsewhere in the house.

Which finding surprised you the most … ?