About The Lancet Commission on Pollution + Health

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 coordination from the United Nations Environment Programme and the

World Bank. The Commission comprises many of the world’s leading 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.

 

Background

Environmental pollution is the single largest cause of disease and death in low- and

middle-income countries. Data from the World Health Organization and Institute for

Health Metrics and Evaluation suggest that in 2012, exposures to polluted soil, water

and air contributed to an estimated nine million deaths worldwide.1, 2 By comparison,

deaths from HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis caused a combined three 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 94%—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 many 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 replicated globally.

Despite its importance and preventability, environmental pollution has not received the

priority it merits in the international development agenda. Although international aid for

HIV, malaria and tuberculosis exceeded $28 billion in 2013, less than $1billion in

international assistance was allocated to tackle pollution. 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 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 strategies and solutions. The

Commission will bring pollution squarely into the international development agenda.