Issue No. 29: THE IMPACT OF POLLUTION ON PLANETARY HEALTH: Emergence of an Underappreciated Risk Factor

United Nations Environment Programme (2018-01-08)

Pollution is a massive, overlooked cause of disease, death and environmental degradation. To address the neglected problem of pollution, we formed the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health. The goals were to raise awareness of pollution’s great magnitude, end neglect of pollution-related disease (PRD), and mobilize the resources and political will needed to control pollution and prevent PRD. Pollution was responsible in 2015 for 9 million premature deaths – three times as many deaths as caused by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. 92% of PRD occurs in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), and in the hardest hit countries, PRD is responsible for more than 1 death in 4. Household air and water pollution, the traditional forms of pollution, are decreasing, and deaths from pneumonia and diarrhea are down. But ambient air, chemical and soil pollution are all on the rise, and non-communicable diseases (NCD) caused by these forms of pollution are increasing. Pollution and climate change are closely linked; both arise from the same sources, and both can be controlled by similar solutions. PRD causes great economic losses. These include productivity losses that reduce gross domestic product in LMICs by up to 2% per year as well as health care costs that account for 1.7% of health care spending in high-income countries and up to 7% in LMICs. Welfare losses due to pollution are estimated to amount to $4.6 trillion per year, 6.2% of global economic output.