The World Health Organization (WHO) latest news release shows an estimate of 12.6 million deaths caused by unhealthy environmental surroundings. The causes of the increased amounts of casualties across the globe are caused by environmental risks factors including climate change, water and soil pollution, ultraviolet radiation and chemical exposures.
In addition, non-communicable diseases or NCDs, account for about 8.2 million of the deaths. Those NCDs are mostly related to chronic respiratory diseases, chronic lung bronchitis, strokes and heart diseases. And considering this type of diseases are directly correlated with air pollution and exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke, it is worth taking precautions in order to reduce the amount of deaths attributed to the environment.
The NCDs now adds up to two-thirds of the total deaths caused by unhealthy environments, according to the WHO’s news release. If it is true that there’s a human factor involved in the impact to the environment’s balance, it is up to the world’s population to help reduce the environmental disease burden.
However, in order to find a solution, the problem needs to be completely understood, and further research is necessary to determine how intertwined the environment is with the human’s population health. For instance, deaths from infectious diseases including diarrhea and malaria are deeply correlated with infected water, poor sanitation and waste management.
Yet the number of deaths caused by these diseases has declined due to efforts to improve the access to clean water and sanitation to communities that endured harsh conditions. The WHO report proposes cost-effective measures in order for countries to help communities improve their health, as well as their environment.
Extreme situations require extreme measures
The measures would include not only reducing the usage of solid fuels, commonly used for cooking, but also increasing the people’s access to low-carbon energy technologies. It’s important for countries to take note of the WHO’s second edition of the report, Preventing disease through healthy environments, if people expect to see positive results in climate change.
“There’s an urgent need for investment in strategies to reduce environmental risks in our cities, homes and workplaces,” said Dr. Maria Neira, WHO Director of the Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health.
This report claims that young children and the elderly are most vulnerable to environmental risks. Children under 5 years old and adults aged 50 to 75 years old take most of the impact induced by unhealthy environments, according to the WHO’s news release. However, many cities are already taking note of the WHO’s recommendations as they’ve begun implementing these measures.
The Brazilian city of Curitiba, for instance, has recently invested in greener causes such as bus rapid transit systems and green spaces distributed to oxygenate the city. Smoke-free legislations have also been implanted as a result of the new measures published on the WHO’s website in order to reduce exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.
“A healthy environment underpins a healthy population,” says WHO Director- General Dr. Margaret Chan. “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.”