A new study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) says that nearly one in four deaths are linked to environmental causes and are avoidable. The agency’s new report is the first comprehensive evaluation of environmental health risks since 2006, and it concludes that some 12.6 million people die each year from diseases and injuries related to environmental risks. Increases in air pollution, as well as climate change and chemical exposure, all contribute to deaths that the WHO says could be prevented.

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The study says environmental risks are linked to over 100 of the most dangerous diseases and injuries in the world. The agency estimates that nearly 12.6 million people–23 percent of deaths each year–are a direct result of environmental factors. Deaths related to indoor and outdoor air pollution, climate change and exposure to synthetic chemicals have increased since the previous study ten years ago, leading WHO to conclude that many, if not all, of these environmentally linked deaths could have been avoided.

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Of the 12.6 million deaths related to environmental risks, data collected for the report suggests that the two biggest global environmental killers are strokes and heart disease, which together comprise nearly 5 million deaths each year. Unintentional injuries (such as car accidents) and cancers linked to environmental causes each kill an additional 1.7 million people annually.

“A healthy environment underpins a healthy population,” says Margaret Chan, WHO director general, in a statement. “If countries do not take actions to make environments where people live and work healthy, millions will continue to become ill and die too young.”

Deaths linked to poverty and urban development are also on the rise, according to the report. Those are associated with increased exposure to air pollution, which is especially threatening to young children. “Decreases in air quality have been observed in many low- and middle-income cities around the world in recent years. Increased exposure to air pollution will mainly increase NCDs (non-communicable diseases), but also respiratory infections in children under five years,” says the report.

+ WHO Report: Preventing disease through healthy environments

Via The Guardian

Images via Shutterstock and WHO