The Commission on Pollution and Health is an initiative of The Lancet, the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP), and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, with additional coordination and input from United Nations Environment, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and the World Bank. The Commission comprises many of the world’s most influential leaders, researchers and practitioners in the fields of pollution management, environmental health and sustainable development. The aim of the Commission is to reduce air, soil and water pollution by communicating the extraordinary health and economic costs of pollution globally, providing actionable solutions to policy-makers and dispelling the myth of pollution’s inevitability. The Commission Report will be published in The Lancet, one of the world’s most prestigious and widely read medical journals, on October 19, 2017.
Environmental pollution is the single largest cause of disease and death in low- and middle-income countries. Data from the World Health Organization and others suggests that in 2012 exposures to polluted soil, water and air contributed to an estimated 8.9 million deaths worldwide.(1, 2) By comparison, deaths from HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis caused a combined 2.5 million deaths.(3, 4) More than one death in seven worldwide is the consequence of environmental pollution.(5) Despite the tremendous impacts on human health and the global economy, environmental pollution has been undercounted and insufficiently addressed in national policies and international development agendas.(6, 7)
Pollution is strongly linked to poverty.(8) The overwhelming majority of the disease burden from pollution—over 92%—falls on residents of low- and middle-income countries. It disproportionally affects countries that are ill equipped to deal with the problem, and vulnerable populations without the resources to protect themselves. The disproportionate poisoning of the poor is a global environmental injustice. In addition to impacts on human health, pollution carries an economic cost that is often overlooked.(9) Pollution-related illnesses result in direct medical costs, costs to healthcare systems and opportunity costs resulting from lost productivity and economic growth.
The good news is that pollution controls are feasible, cost-effective and replicable. The most effective strategies control pollution at its source. In many countries, lead has been removed from gasoline, industrial discharges to air and water have been controlled and highly toxic pesticides have been replaced by safer substitutes. These actions provide a blueprint that can be transferred and replicated globally.
Despite its importance and preventability, environmental pollution has not received the priority it merits in the international development agenda. Solving the pollution problem requires us to measure and demonstrate its true costs, and the benefits of addressing it now. With that information in hand, world leaders can explain and justify actions to solve the problem for current and future generations.
Scope and Goals:
The Global Commission on Pollution and Health will address the full health and economic costs of air, water and soil pollution. Through analyses of existing and emerging data, the Commission will reveal pollution’s severe and underreported contribution to the Global Burden of Disease. It will uncover the economic costs of pollution to low- and middle-income countries, and compare the costs of inaction to the costs of available solutions. It will inform key decision makers around the world about the burden that pollution places on health and economic development, and about available pollution control solutions and strategies. The Commission will bring pollution squarely into the international development agenda.
In addition to publication in The Lancet, the Report findings will be distributed widely through media outlets. The work of the Commission will also be covered extensively through special partnerships with high-profile media organizations. The publication of the Report will coincide with public events around the world highlighting pollution’s impacts and celebrating the inauguration of End Pollution Day.