Development Dialogue: Reducing Pollution for Improved Health: Challenge Profile

Every year, air, water and land pollution cause roughly 8.9 million premature deaths worldwide, most of which occur in developing countries. This represents 13 percent of all deaths around the world. While pollution poisons our air, water and land, it is also toxic to our bodies and economies, exerting a high burden in health costs, lost productivity, degraded quality of life and missed opportunities. 

Children exposed to unsafe levels of lead and mercury pollution, for example, face decreased cognitive abilities and workforce prospects. Indoor and outdoor air pollution is now the single highest environmental health risk, fueled both by rapid urbanization and by the pervasive use of dirty cooking fuels in low income countries. Although the vast majority of deaths happen in low and middle-income countries, pollution and its impact on health affect us all through global supply chains, water and air flows, and other natural processes. 

But pollution is a solvable problem. In cities like Bangkok, Thailand, and Santiago, Chile, we have seen that responding to air quality challenges through leadership, policy changes and investments can create a healthier environment for people, while creating more attractive business conditions, easing congestion and lowering emissions that lead to climate change. A diversity of industries from transport to textiles, power, electronics or agriculture can be a part of the solution and stand to benefit from innovation. Many companies are already cleaning their supply chains and investing in safer technologies. 

Through better collaboration between public and private sector stakeholders, and active engagement of civil society, underpinned by sound analytics, we can identify, finance and put in place the measures needed to clean up the planet and save lives. 

Join the conversation with government, health, and pollution experts to share your experience and explore solutions and technologies necessary for a healthier, cleaner, and more productive world.