Ground Report | New Delhi: Pollution kills more than covid; One in six deaths in the world is related to diseases caused by pollution, which kills many more people than pandemics such as covid-19, according to a report by a special rapporteur of the United Nations system.
“Pollution and toxic substances cause at least nine million premature deaths, double the number caused by the pandemic in its first 18 months,” said Canadian rapporteur and expert David R. Boyd.
Boyd is a special rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council in this Swiss city, on the issue of human rights obligations related to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
“While the climate emergency, the global biodiversity crisis and covid-19 grab the headlines, the devastation that pollution and hazardous substances cause on health, human rights and the integrity of ecosystems continue to attract little attention” Boyd deplored.
Every year hundreds of millions of tons of toxic substances are emitted or discharged into the air, water and soil, and “the toxification of the planet is intensifying”, according to Boyd, since the production of chemical substances doubled between 2000 and 2017, and it is expected to double again by 2030 and triple by 2050.
“While the climate emergency, the global biodiversity crisis and covid-19 grab the headlines, the devastation that pollution and hazardous substances cause on health, human rights and the integrity of ecosystems continues to attract little attention” : David R, Boyd.
Human beings are exposed to toxic substances through breathing, food and drink, through skin contact and through the umbilical cord in the womb, the report recalled.
Such exposure increases the risk of premature death, acute poisoning, cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, adverse effects on the immune, endocrine, and reproductive systems, birth defects, and lifelong neurodevelopmental sequelae.
Air pollution is the largest environmental contributor to premature deaths, causing some seven million of them each year. A quarter of the global burden of disease is attributed to avoidable environmental risk factors, the vast majority of which involve exposure to pollution and toxic substances.
The report revealed the existence of environmental “sacrifice zones”, places whose residents suffer devastating consequences for their health and see their rights violated, for living in sources of pollution and highly contaminated areas.
The term originated at the time of the Cold War when it was designated to the areas that were left uninhabitable due to the nuclear experiments of the United States, the former Soviet Union, France and the United Kingdom, which caused high and persistent radiation levels.
Contaminated sites are often found in disadvantaged communities. It is estimated that there are 2.8 million contaminated sites in Europe, while in the United States more than 1,000 national priority clean-up sites have been identified, among hundreds of thousands of contaminated sites.
New polluted sites are generated in low- and middle-income countries due to industrialization (for example, coal-fired power plants) and extractivism (for example, artisanal and small-scale gold mining).
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