12.6M die each year due to unhealthy environments

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UNITED NATIONS: An estimated 12.6 million people died as a result of living or working in an unhealthy environment in 2012, nearly one in four of total global deaths, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters here Tuesday.

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“Environmental risk factors, such as air, water and soil pollution, chemical exposures, climate change, and ultraviolet radiation, contribute to more than 100 diseases and injuries,” Dujarric said at a daily news briefing here, citing a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO).

“The report emphasizes cost-effective measures that countries can take to reverse the upward trend of environment-related disease and deaths. It is available online,” he said.

The WHO report, entitled “Preventing disease through healthy environments: a global assessment of the burden of disease from environmental risk,” revealed that since it was first published a decade ago, deaths due to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), mostly attributable to air pollution, including exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke, amount to as much as 8.2 million of these deaths.

“A healthy environment underpins a healthy population,” said WHO’s Director-General Margaret Chan in a press release. “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.”

At the same time, deaths from infectious diseases, such as diarrhea and malaria, often related to poor water, sanitation and waste management, have declined.

Increases in access to safe water and sanitation have been key contributors to this trend, alongside better access to immunization, insecticide-treated mosquito nets and essential medicines.

The report emphasizes cost-effective measures that countries can take to reverse the upward trend of environment-related disease and deaths. These include reducing the use of solid fuels for cooking and increasing access to low-carbon energy technologies.

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