Pollution, health and development: the need for a new paradigm

Rev Environ Health. 2016 Mar;31(1):121-4. doi: 10.1515/reveh-2015-0070.


Background: Pollution is the largest cause of death in low- and middle-income countries. WHO estimates that 8.9 million persons die each year of diseases caused by pollution - 94% of them in poor countries. By comparison, HIV/AIDS causes 1.5 million deaths per year, and malaria and tuberculosis cause fewer than 1 million each. Diseases caused by pollution are very costly.

Prevention: Pollution can be prevented. In high-income countries, legal and technical control strategies have been developed and yielded great health and economic benefits. The removal of lead from gasoline increased the mean IQ of all American children and has generated an annual economic benefit of $213 billion. Unmet need: Despite its enormous human and economic costs, pollution has been overlooked in the international development agenda. Pollution control currently receives <0.5% of development spending.

Solution: We have formed The Lancet-GAHP-Mount Sinai Commission on Pollution, Health and Development. This Commission will develop robust analyses of the impacts of pollution on health, economics, and development. It will inform heads of state and global funders about the enormous scale pollution's effects. The ultimate goal is to raise the priority of pollution and increase the resources allocated to control of this urgent public health problem.

MeSH terms

  • Developing Countries*
  • Environmental Health*
  • Environmental Pollution / adverse effects
  • Environmental Pollution / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Public Health*