Quantifying environmental health impacts

Preventing disease through healthy environments: Towards an estimate of the environmental burden of disease

How much disease could be prevented through better management of our environment? The environment influences our health in many ways — through exposures to physical, chemical and biological risk factors, and through related changes in our behaviour in response to those factors. To answer this question, the available scientific evidence was summarized and more than 100 experts were consulted for their estimates of how much environmental risk factors contribute to the disease burden of 85 diseases.

This report summarizes the results globally, by 14 regions worldwide, and separately for children. The evidence shows that environmental risk factors play a role in more than 80% of the diseases regularly reported by the World Health Organization. Globally, nearly one quarter of all deaths and of the total disease burden can be attributed to the environment. In children, however, environmental risk factors can account for slightly more than one-third of the disease burden. These findings have important policy implications, because the environmental risk factors that were studied largely can be modified by established, cost-effective interventions. The interventions promote equity by benefiting everyone in the society, while addressing the needs of those most at risk.

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NEW: Update of global statistics - Annex 2 tables

  • Table A2.3
    pdf, 24kb

    Deaths attributable to environmental factors, by disease and mortality stratum, for WHO Regions in 2004.
  • Table A2.4
    pdf, 26kb

    Burden of disease (DALYs) attributable to environmental factors, by disease and mortality stratum, for WHO Regions in 2004.

Publishing and ordering information

© World Health Organization 2006
ISBN 92 4 159382 2
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Radio interviews

  • Radio interviews
    by Dr Maria Neira, Director, Public Health and the Environment Department, WHO, Dr Annette Prüss-Üstün, Scientist, Public Health and the Environment Department, WHO and lead author of the report Dr Carlos Corvalan, Scientist, Public Health and the Environment Department, WHO and co-author of the report

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