Why Is Environmental Health So Important?

The intricate relationship between human health and the environment is increasingly acknowledged, as pollution and environmental degradation pose significant threats to both. With an alarming 23% of global deaths attributed to environmental causes by the World Health Organization, the urgency of addressing these issues becomes even more apparent. Pollution and environmental degradation manifest in various forms, from direct health hazards like extreme weather events to the insidious accumulation of toxins and microplastics in the food chain, leading to adverse health outcomes. It’s crucial to recognise the disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations, including the poor, disadvantaged, women, and children, magnifying the urgency of addressing environmental justice.

Furthermore, the United Nations’ emphasis on promoting sustainable development practices underscores the complexity of these challenges and the necessity for integrated approaches that consider economic, social, and environmental dimensions. By crafting policies and programmes that prioritise pollution reduction, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable consumption and production, UNEP endeavours to mitigate the adverse health effects of environmental degradation while nurturing resilience in ecosystems and communities.

Adding more statistics underlines the gravity of the situation. For instance, it’s estimated that air pollution alone causes 7 million premature deaths worldwide every year, according to the WHO. Additionally, the UN Environment Programme reports that over 80% of wastewater in developing countries is discharged untreated into rivers and oceans, contributing to the spread of diseases and compromising water quality. Moreover, the economic toll of environmental health impacts is staggering, with the World Bank estimating that the cost of pollution-related illnesses amounts to over £4.6 trillion annually, equivalent to around 6.2% of global economic output.

Across intense research, here are some vital facts which go on to showcase why we as a species should hold closely, the health of our prepossessing environment:

Did you know that more cities are taking action to improve air quality? While it’s true that 9 out of 10 people breathe polluted air globally, governments and communities are increasingly investing in clean energy and green transportation to reduce harmful emissions. In fact, cities like Copenhagen and Zurich have seen significant improvements, with air pollution levels decreasing by 30% over the past decade. 

Not only this, but despite challenges, progress is being made in providing access to safe drinking water. Over 2 billion people still lack access, but initiatives around the world are working tirelessly to improve water infrastructure and ensure everyone has clean, safe water to drink. In places like Rwanda, efforts to increase access to clean water have resulted in 85% of the population now having access to improved water sources.

From a viewpoint that challenges our temperature, there’s a global movement towards combating climate change! While it’s a serious issue, the world is coming together like never before to reduce carbon emissions, protect ecosystems, and create a more sustainable future for all. Recent data shows that renewable energy sources like wind and solar are on the rise, with renewables accounting for over 80% of new electricity capacity added globally in 2020.

In light of these figures, collaborative efforts involving governments, civil society, businesses such as Buckingham Futures (an environmental health recruitment consultancy) and international organisations are imperative to effectively address these intertwined planetary crises. By pooling resources, expertise, and innovation, we can implement transformative solutions that prioritise the health of both humans and the environment, paving the way for a more sustainable and resilient future. Awareness about the dangers of chemical exposure  for example, is positively growing, leading to safer practices in agriculture, industry, and everyday life. With proper education and regulation, we can minimise risks and create healthier environments for everyone. For instance, the European Union has implemented strict regulations on chemical usage, resulting in a significant decrease in harmful pesticide residues in food over the past decade. We should continue this trend, and not sparingly.