Statement delivered at the 71st World Health Assembly calling for air pollution to be addressed

As part of the Member States discussion on a report from the WHO Director-General on the impact on health of environment and climate change, The Union in partnership with the NCD Alliance and Vital Strategies read the following statement:

I deliver this statement on behalf of The Union, supported by the NCD Alliance and Vital Strategies.  Latest evidence shows that 24 percent of all adult deaths from heart disease, 25 percent from stroke, 43 percent from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 29 percent from lung cancer are attributable to air pollution.  The causal evidence linking these environmental risks to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is irrefutable. In order to immediately address the avoidable burden of disease due to air, water and soil pollution, we call on Member States to:

  1. Elevate environmental health priorities at the 2018 UN High-level Political Forum: Goals to be reviewed at the HLPF include SDG7 on energy, SDG11 on cities and SDG12 on sustainable consumption presenting a clear opportunity to promote co-benefit solutions such as active and public transport, sustainable diets, management of harmful chemicals, heavy metals, and clean energy. We encourage Member States submitting voluntary national reports to incorporate environmental health;
  2. Exercise a comprehensive approach to mitigate the impact of health-harming commodities and commercial determinants of NCDs: This necessitates a comprehensive response across health and environmental priorities, including implementation of fiscal policies commensurate with the threat of health-harming products, regulation to protect against commercial interference, and increased focus on the full life cycle of products, including post-consumption environmental contamination and harmful recycling practices;
  3. Prioritise access to clean and safe household fuels: 3 billion people still do not have access to clean household energy.   We encourage Member States to promote the intersectoral action needed to address this issue - the leading environmental risk factor for NCDs in low and middle income countries and a major contributor to ambient air and climate pollution.

We look forward to elevating the recognition of air pollution as a risk factor for NCDs in the lead up to the UN HLM. Thank you.”

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