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Many more people risk dying young if nothing is done to improve the poor environmental conditions.

Unhealthy environment accounts for diseases that claim an estimated 12.6 million lives each year, according to a new report by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

 “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,” Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, has warned. 

According to the report, 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. 

The second edition of the report, ‘Preventing disease through healthy environments: a global assessment of the burden of disease from environmental risks’, indicates that since the report was first published a decade ago, deaths due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) amount to as much as 8.2 million of these deaths.

Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are conditions known to affect individuals over a long period of time and for which there are no known causative agents for transmission from one affected person to another.

According to the report, NCDs such as stroke, heart disease, cancers and chronic respiratory disease now amount to nearly two-thirds of the total deaths caused by unhealthy environments.

Top on the list of these non-communicable diseases that continue to silently claim lives is stroke, which accounts for 2.5 million deaths annually.

Young children and older people bear the brunt of the environmental risks, the report finds, with children and under-fives and adults aged 50 to 75 most impacted. 

The report emphasises 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. 

In Ghana, it is estimated that air pollution alone kills an estimated number of 13,400 Ghanaians annually, including 3,000 children.

“There’s an urgent need for investment in strategies to reduce environmental risks in our cities, homes and workplaces”, said Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health.

“Such investments can significantly reduce the rising worldwide burden of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, injuries and cancers, and lead to immediate savings in healthcare costs.” 

Low- and middle-income countries bear the greatest environmental burden in all types of diseases and injuries; however for certain NCDs such as cardiovascular diseases and cancers, the per capita disease burden can also be relatively high in high-income countries. 

In Ghana, NCDs are reported to cause the death of over 80,000 people annually, with more than half of the people below 70 years.
Source: The Finder

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