A report has been issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) that estimates environmental risk now causes 12.6 million deaths each year – that’s one in four people. According to UN News, environmental risk factors, such as air, water and soil pollution, chemical exposures, climate change, and ultraviolet radiation, reportedly contribute to more than 100 diseases and injuries.
WHO director general, Margaret Chan urges countries to make living and working environments healthy otherwise “millions will continue to become ill and die too young”.
A healthy environment underpins a healthy population. If countries do not take actions to make environments where people live and work healthy, millions will continue to become ill and die too young
The report shows a sharp rise in noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) which include stroke, heart disease, cancers and chronic respiratory disease. These account for nearly two-thirds of the environmental risk deaths with pollution being the main cause. Air pollution and rapid industrialization in countries such as India and China is a cause for major concern as death-rates rise rapidly in these regions. Around 7.3 million deaths occur each year due to poor air quality as a result of industrial production, urbanization and car ownership.
WHO states that cancer is now the leading cause of death worldwide with one in three people living in industrialized countries expected to develop the disease in their lifetime. Lung cancer was responsible for nearly 1.6 million deaths in 2012 and was the highest form of cancer.
However, according to The Guardian, the last ten years has seen improvements to water supplies, sanitation and waste in Africa and other developing countries. Better access to medical care has reduced the rate of environmental-related deaths but the rate is still high overall.
The age groups that are at the greatest risk are young children and older people, with children under 5 and adults aged 50 to 75 years most impacted, as stated in the news release by WHO.
The report shows a disturbing need for a solution to the world’s environmental problems and the devastating impact it’s having on our population. WHO director, department of public health, environmental and social determinants of health, Dr Maria Neira, states that there is an “urgent need for investment in strategies to reduce environmental risks in our cities, homes and workplaces”
There’s an urgent need for investment in strategies to reduce environmental risks in our cities, homes and workplaces. Such investments can significantly reduce the rising worldwide burden of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, injuries and cancers, and lead to immediate savings in healthcare costs