Urgent action needed to reduce environment-related deaths in Europe

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Each year 1.4 million Europeans die prematurely due to polluted environments.

The World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe (WHO/Europe), the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) have called on European leaders to scale up action to prevent environment-related deaths and diseases.

The call coincides with the 6th Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health, which is taking place this week in the Czech Republic where representatives from WHO Europe, together with international and nongovernmental organisations are signing a Declaration committing to prioritise action on environmental risks to health by 2018.

Air pollution is Europe’s leading environmental killer, responsible for 620,000 deaths every year. Further deaths are attributed to environmental factors, such as chemical pollution, noise, occupational risks, unsafe water, poor sanitation and injuries. It is estimated that environmental factors are responsible for around a quarter of ischaemic heart disease and strokes in Europe, and almost a fifth of cancers.

“In the era of sustainable development, we can prevent the 1.4 million environment-related deaths by making health a political choice across all government sectors,” said Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “We urge all European leaders to take this opportunity for more sustainable policies to address the health challenges of the 21st century.”

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