Environmental factors cause 1 in 4 deaths

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Living or working in unsanitary conditions is leading thousands of people in Myanmar to an early death, according to a new report from the World Health Organization.

The report found that 109,235 deaths in one year, or one in four deaths, could be attributed to environmental hazards. With such a burden of environment-related deaths, Myanmar ranked among the top 20 affected countries.

Air, water and soil pollution, chemical exposures, ultraviolet radiation and climate change have become major environmental causes of disease and fatal injury.

The WHO representative in Myanmar, Dr Jorge Luna, specifically blamed indoor and outdoor air pollution – including exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke – as major factors causing non-communicable diseases such as strokes, heart disease, cancers and chronic respiratory diseases.

“And these account for nearly two-thirds of the total number of deaths caused by unhealthy environments,” Dr Luna said. The Myanmar Times.

But the report points out that “premature death and disease can be prevented through healthier environments – to a large extent”.

It details “cost-effective measures” that individuals and governments can take to reduce the death rate.

“For example, the use of clean technologies and fuels for cooking, heating and household lighting would reduce acute respiratory infections, chronic respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases and burns,” the report states.

Smoke-free legislation could limit exposure to second-hand smoke and also reduce cardiovascular disease and respiratory infections.

The report called on countries like Myanmar to “increase access to low-carbon energy technologies”.

Dr Maria Neira, director of public health and environment at the WHO, said measures to reduce the burden of environmental disease have an additional financial benefit.

“[Such investments can] lead to immediate savings in healthcare costs,” she said.

WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan said it was important that individuals and governments start implementing these measures immediately.

“A healthy environment underpins a healthy population,” Dr. Chan said. “If countries don’t take action to create environments where people live and work in good health, millions of people will continue to get sick and die too young.”

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