Network Updates / Nairobi, Kenya / 2018-10-07

New Global Pollution Observatory to boost efforts to quantify health impacts of pollution:

New observatory to provide clear, actionable intelligence on how to break free from pollution

Nairobi, Kenya
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This information was first published on the UN Environment website. 

A new “Global Pollution Observatory” has been set up to boost efforts to provide decision-makers and development practitioners with real data on the comparative magnitude of health loss arising from pollution.

It was created as part of a new research partnership established by Boston College together with UN Environment, which will focus on reducing sources of pollution that kill 9 million people each year by quantifying its impacts on human capital and sustainable economy.

UN Environment’s Executive Director, Erik Solheim, hopes these efforts will spur decision makers into action.

“Dirty air alone causes an estimated six per cent global income loss, but for some reason the business-as-usual model is resisting greener and cleaner change. The sad fact is that for too many policymakers, acting against pollution is seen as a cost and a burden,” said Solheim, in a blog post.

“It’s therefore crucial that we do better to show them precisely how much they are paying for pollution, and build the economic case for action,” he said.

Over 90 per cent of the world’s population lives in places where air quality is not up to guidelines established by the World Health Organization which found that air pollution is responsible for an estimated 7 million premature deaths each year.

It is linked to a myriad of diseases and risk factors, including asthma, stroke, cancer and cardiovascular diseases, and, more recently, to a wider range of human impacts, including dementia and intellectual development.

“The objective is to build an international team to coordinate, analyze and regularly publish information on all forms of pollution and their effects on health in cities and countries around the world,” said Solheim.

“The data will be credible, carefully curated and open access – and we hope it will guide governments, inform civil society and the media, and assist cities and countries to better target the causes of pollution and save lives,” he said.

Led by public health expert Philip Landrigan, the Global Observatory on Pollution and Health will track efforts to control pollution and prevent pollution-related diseases that account for 16 per cent of all premature deaths around the world.

“The Observatory is going to take on major issues at the intersection of pollution, human health and public policy,” said Landrigan.

“We’ll study particular segments of the problem – how it affects particular countries, different populations, like children, or particular diseases, like cancer. Our reports will be disseminated broadly and aimed at the general public as well as policymakers. What we want to do is mobilize society to see pollution as a serious threat, change public policy, prevent pollution and, ultimately, save lives,” he said.

As a first milestone, the partnership’s work is to estimate the loss in human capital and subsequently on the economy in India and China by June 2019.

Read more
Press release: UN Environment and Boston College establish Global Pollution Observatory
Blog post: Creating a Global Pollution Observatory: Battling big pollution with big data By Erik Solheim

Banner photo by Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier, CC BY-SA 2.0.