From: ENN
Published September 23, 2005 12:00 AM

World Health Organization: One Million People Die Yearly From Environmental Risks in the Western Pacific

NOUMEA, New Caledonia — One million people in the Western Pacific Region die each year from environmental health risks, and the World Health Organization predicts a worsening scenario if effective measures to deal with growing industrialization and urbanization are not taken now.

Particular attention must be paid to indoor smoke from solid fuels used for cooking and heating, urban air pollution, unsafe water and inadequate hygiene and sanitation. Other risks include exposure to lead, agrochemical contaminants, industrial accidents and effects of climate change.

Alarmed by this growing threat to health, the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, WHO's governing body in the Region, called on Member States to strengthen human resources and institutional capacity in environmental health risk assessment and management.

At a meeting here, the Regional Committee is reviewing WHO's work in the Region and discussing future health directions. About 100 representatives, including several ministers of health from Member States, are attending the meeting.

Although there are international agreements to reduce environmental risks to health, more systematic approaches to assessing and reducing environmental health risks need to be developed, the Regional Committee said.

"Intersectoral coordination mechanisms, or cooperation between health and other sectors, such as environment, agriculture, rural and urban development, energy, industry, transport and construction, need to be strengthened to address new challenges to environmental health," Dr Shigeru Omi, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, told the Regional Committee.

In the Region, about 580 000 deaths per year are attributable to traditional environmental risks-indoor smoke from solid fuels; and unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene. Modern risks, such as urban air pollution and exposure to lead and other pollutants, are responsible for 405 000 deaths, 96% of which occur in developing countries of the Region.

Multi country efforts are required to ease the situation as water, air and coastal pollution are transnational, the Regional Committee was told.

The 37 countries and areas comprising the WHO Western Pacific Region are: American Samoa, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam,Hong Kong (China), Japan, Kiribati, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Macao (China), Malaysia, the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Mongolia, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Pitcairn Islands, the Republic of Korea, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Viet Nam, and Wallis and Futuna.

Source: PR Newswire, World Health Organization

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