Our Horrifyingly Unhealthy Environment Is Killing Millions Of People Every Year

It’s no secret that the Earth is in dire straits. Photos of the waterways in Rio de Janeiro, still reeking of sewage despite a years-long cleanup plan ahead of this summer’s Olympics, prove just how difficult it can be to fix what humanity has fouled.

The human toll of all this pollution and destruction is vast. A report released Tuesday by the World Health Organization links nearly 13 million deaths worldwide to preventable environmental factors. The study found that nearly 1 in 4 deaths in 2012, the most recent year cited in the report, had to do with surroundings made unhealthy by air pollution, poor water quality and other environmental factors. More than 1 in 4 deaths of children under the age of 5 were linked to the same sources.

“A healthy environment underpins a healthy population,” Margaret Chan, director-general of WHO, said in a statement. “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.”

In distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy environments, the report considers factors like air and water quality, workplace and road safety, man-made climate change and ultraviolet radiation. All of these variables can be modified by governments and technology, WHO notes, unlike events like natural disasters. Factors like diet, pollen and alcohol and tobacco consumption were also excluded from the study.

The report notes that the people most at risk from an unhealthy environment are children, older adults and people living in low- and middle-income countries. Regions including China, Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa had the most deaths related to environmental factors.

The findings update a report first issued in 2006, and reflect a decade’s worth of ominous developments around the globe, including Beijing’s crippling smog and India’s <a target="_blank" —> Read More