New study indicates that pollution may be the world’s biggest killer

Most of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, eight goals for international development, come to an end in 2015 and most of the Goals remain at least partially unmet. At Rio+20, in 2012, nations agreed to finish the MDG job by adopting a new set of Sustainable Development Goals for international development. A UN Working group is currently working on a draft of those goals which is expected to be presented to the UN Secretariat later this year.

A multilateral ngo, the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution, has released a new analysis of data that points to pollution as the largest factor in disease and death in the developing world, killing more than 8.4 million people each year. According to GAHP, the World Health Organization and others have determined that 7.4 million deaths are due to pollution from air, water, sanitation and hygiene.  WHO figures released in May 2014 count deaths from outdoor and indoor air pollution at 6.58 million; water contamination, lack of sanitation and hygiene at 842,000. To these figure GAHP attributes an additional 1 million deaths to toxic chemical and industrial wastes from large and small producers in formal and informal sectors of economies in poor countries.

GAHP claims that pollution causes almost three times more deaths each year than malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis combined (1.5 million deaths from HIV; 600,000 from malaria; and 900,000 from tuberculosis). It is urging the UN to ensure that reduction of pollution is included in the new Sustainable Development Goals with a target to reduce by two-thirds, by 2030 from the baseline of 2012, the number of deaths and disability adjusted life years from pollution of air (indoor and outdoor), soil, water, food and household products.

GAHP is an international collaborative body including members such as the Asian Development Bank, European Commission, Inter American Development Bank (BID), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and the World Bank. It is therefore a body with some significant clout with the UN SDG Working Group. Inclusion of pollution reduction in the SDGs is likely to focus a significantly higher level of international attention on the sources of pollution in low and middle income countries. A presentation at, especially pages 14 through 19, and a GAHP report The Poisoned Poor: Toxic Chemicals Exposures in Low- and Middle-Income Countries, to be found at, provide much more information on the sources of pollution that threaten human health in developing countries.

Details of the GAHP SDG initiative can be found at

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