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Lancet Commission Releases Major Report On Pollution

Problem Called “Neglected” And  “Underestimated”

The Lancet has been at the center of major public health initiatives made public in October. In addition to the first Climate Change Countdown report (see related story in this issue), a Lancet Commission working with the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution has released a comprehensive review of the environmental pollution problem and called for greater recognition of the toll which it exacts.

“It is time to put pollution on the map”, and “we bring pollution out of the shadows”, declare Mount Sinai epidemiologist Philip Landrigan and Pure Earth’s Richard Fuller in their introduction to the Commission’s report which has been two years in the making.

They add “For too long, pollution has been sidelined, overshadowed, ignored by the world, in part because it is a complicated topic with many causes, and as many outcomes. Often it kills slowly, and indirectly, hiding its tracks.”

The Commission report highlights these key facts and conclusions about pollution from 2015 data:

·       It is the largest environmental cause of disease and premature death in the world today.

·       It caused 9 million premature deaths in 2015, 16% of all deaths worldwide. This translates to an astonishing ~25,000 deaths per day!

It caused three times more deaths than from AIDS, TB, and malaria combined.

·       It caused fifteen times more deaths than from all wars and other forms of violence

·       Nearly 92% of pollution related deaths occur in low-income and middle-income countries

·       Most prevalent among minorities and the marginalized at every income level

·       Children are at high risk of pollution-related disease

·       Air pollution and climate change are closely linked and share common solutions

·       Losses due to pollution are estimated at $4.6 trillion per year, which is 6.2% of the global economic output

·       The claim that pollution control stifles economic growth and that poor countries must pollute is false

·       The good news is that much pollution can be eliminated and pollution prevention can be highly cost-effective.

The aim of the The Lancet Commission is to raise awareness about pollution, end the neglect of pollution-related disease, and mobilize the resources and political will needed to combat pollution effectively, according to the report.


The Commission’s report identifies six recommendations.

1. Elevate Pollution As A National And International Priority, And Integrate It Into Country And City Planning Processes.

Pollution can no longer be viewed solely as an environmental issue. It now affects the health and well-being of entire societies.

2. Increase Funding For Pollution Control And Prioritize By Health Impacts

The level of funding for pollution control in low- and middle-income countries is meager and should be substantially increased, both within national budgets and among international development agencies.

3. Establish Systems To Monitor Pollution And Its Health Effects.

Data collected at the local and national levels are essential for measuring pollution levels, identifying and apportioning pollution sources, evaluating interventions, guiding enforcement, informing civil society and the public, and assessing progress toward goals.

4. Build Multi-Sectoral Partnerships For Pollution Control.

Inter-agency partnerships and public-private collaborations can prove to be effective tools in the development of clean energy sources and clean technologies that ultimately will prevent pollution at the source.

5. Integrate Pollution Mitigation Into Planning Processes For Non-Communicable Diseases.

Interventions against pollution need to be a core component of the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases.

6. Conduct Research Into Pollution’s Impacts And Pollution Control.

Research is needed to understand and control pollution and to support change in pollution policy. Pollution-related research (research of the “pollutome”) should:

·       Explore emerging causal links between pollutants, diseases, and subclinical impairment, for example between ambient air pollution and dysfunction of the central nervous system in children and in the elderly;

·       Quantify the burden of disease associated with known toxic chemicals such as lead, mercury, chromium, arsenic, asbestos, and benzene.

·       Characterize the health impacts from newer chemical pollutants such as developmental neurotoxicants, endocrine disruptors, novel insecticides, chemical herbicides, and pharmaceutical wastes;

·       Identify and map pollution exposures in low- and middle-income countries;

·       Improve estimates of the economic costs of pollution and pollution; and

·       Improve estimates of the cost of inaction and returns from interventions.

In an effort to be practical, the Commission Report lays out a 12 step action plan for local areas to address the various kinds of pollution, including outdoor air, household air, water, and soil pollution and pollution in the workplace.

To view the full Commission report, visit:  ■

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