Over 2.6 million people die in India every year due to poor environmental and sanitary conditions.
Indian and China together account for five million deaths – 38% of the global figure – due to environmental health problem. Globally, the annual toll due to ill health cause by a person’s surroundings or social conditions – poor sanitary conditions, consumption of unsafe drinking water, indoor and outdoor air pollution, inadequate vector control and unhealthy lifestyles – is 13 million.
In India, an average of 68 years of ill health per 1000 inhabitants are caused by environmental health issues, compared to 54 in Russia, 37 in Brazil and 34 in China. These are the findings of WHO’s country-by-country analysis of the impact of environmental factors on health. The report made public on Wednesday, said more than one-third of the disease burden in several countries, including India could be prevented through improvements like better air quality and providing safe drinking water.
After analysing the data available with the national health authorities and reviewing scientific literature and expert surveys, WHO said low income countries suffered the most from environmental health factors, losing about 20 times more healthy years of life per person per year than high income countries.
In India every year, lack of water, sanitation and hygiene claims over 400,000 lives, while polluted air kills over 520,000 people. India’s lung cancer rating was 0.3 compared to 2.5 in the worst-ranked countries. Other cancers occurred in India at the rate of 1.2 compared to 4.1 in the worst-ranked nations. The countries cardiovascular rating was 4.5 compared to 13 in worst affected countries, while the rate of road traffic injuries stood at 2.5.
Dr Sattar Yoosuf, director of WHO South-East Asia’s department of sustainable development and healthy environments, told TOI, “Nearly 25% of India’s total disease burden can be attributed to environmental reasons. Simple steps like improving water and air quality and changing the hygiene behaviour in people can save 2.6 million lives every year.”
WHO said that worst affected countries with environmental ill health were Angola, Burkina Faso, Mali and Afghanistan – each with 316 years of ill health per 1000 inhabitants. The best rated were Iceland and Israel with a score of 14 years per 1000, ahead of Italy (16), Germany, Spain and France (17),