The Lancet Commission on pollution and health has published a report on the impact of pollution on disease and premature death which aims to raise global awareness of pollution, end neglect of pollution-related disease, and mobilise the resources and the political will needed to effectively confront pollution.
The report, authored by a team of high-level experts, warns that pollution caused by industrial emissions, vehicular exhaust, and toxic chemicals has been overlooked in both the international development and the global health agendas. Further, pollution endangers planetary health, destroys eco-systems, and is intimately linked to global climate change.
The report notes that pollution prevention can be highly cost-effective, as demonstrated in some high and middle income countries that have legislated to control pollution resulting in improved human health while increasing gross domestic product (GDP) by nearly 250%.
“The challenge for high-income nations today is to further reduce pollution, decarbonise their economies, and reduce the resources used in achieving prosperity. The claim that pollution control stifles economic growth and that poor countries must pass through a phase of pollution and disease on the road to prosperity has repeatedly been proven to be untrue. “
The report makes six key recommendations to achieve this objective:
(1) Make pollution prevention a high priority nationally and internationally and integrate it into country and city planning processes. Pollution is a transcendent problem that affects the health and wellbeing of entire societies. Leaders of government at all levels (mayors, governors, and heads of state) need to elevate pollution control to a high priority within their agendas; to integrate pollution control into development planning; to actively engage in pollution planning and prioritisation; and to link prevention of pollution with commitments to advance the SDGs, to slow the pace of climate change, and to control non-communicable diseases.
(2) Increase funding and international technical support dedicated to pollution control.
(3) Establish systems to monitor pollution and its effects on health. Data collected at the national and local levels are essential for measuring pollution levels, identifying and apportioning appropriate responsibility to each pollution source, evaluating the success of interventions, guiding enforcement, informing civil society and the public, and assessing progress toward goals.
(4) Build multi-sectoral partnerships for pollution control across government agencies and between governments and the private sector.
(5) Integrate pollution mitigation into planning processes for non-communicable diseases. Interventions against pollution need to be a core component of the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases.
(6) Increase research on pollution and pollution control.