The Guardian (UK)
October 6, 2005


Rachel's summary: The World Bank says almost 20% of all ill health,
worldwide, plus millions of deaths each year, are caused by global
warming and by pollution. Furthermore, pollution is holding back
economic development.

Poor sanitation to blame, says World Bank report....

By John Vidal

Almost a fifth of all ill health in poor countries and millions of
deaths can be attributed to environmental factors, including climate
change and pollution, according to Precautionary PrinciplepagePK:210058Precautionary PrinciplepiPK:210062Precautionary PrincipletheSitePK:244381,00.html" target="_blank">a report from the World Bank.
Unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene as well as indoor and
outdoor air pollution are all said to be killing people and preventing
economic development. In addition, says the bank, increasing soil
pollution, pesticides, hazardous waste and chemicals in food are
significantly affecting health and economies.

More controversially, the report, released yesterday in New York,
links cancers to environmental conditions and says global warming has
a major impact on health. "For almost all forms of cancer, the risk of
contracting this disease can be reduced if physical environments are
safe for human habitation and food items are safe for consumption,"
says the report.

It also cites the spread of malaria and dengue fever as climate change
intensifies. Global warming, says the report, is leading to lower
yields of some crops and the salination of coastal areas.

"In 2000 more than 150,000 premature deaths were attributed to various
climate change impacts, according to the World Health Organisation,"
it says. While tobacco, alcohol and unsafe sex are still the most
likely threats to health in developing countries, rapid urbanisation
and the spread of slum conditions are now major hazards, says the

"Some 1.1 billion people lack access to safe water and 2.6 billion
lack access to safe sanitation. [This leads to] about 4 billion cases
of diarrhoea a year, which cause 1.8 million deaths a year, mostly
among children under five," it says.

Sanitation, says the bank, which is committed to increasing spending
on the environment, is very much "a forgotten problem", with spending
on improvements estimated at just $1bn in 2000 -- less than 10% of
that spent on water.

Millions of people who have moved to cities to find work have swapped
indoor for outdoor air pollution, suggests the report. Urban air
pollution is estimated to cause about 800,000 premature deaths, it
says, approaching the number of people affected by indoor air
pollution from wood fires in poorly ventilated homes in rural areas.

According to the report, which uses WHO statistics, high
concentrations of minute particles released by smoky fires are now
responsible for over 1.6 million deaths a year. Acute respiratory
infection, largely caused by indoor air pollution, it says, was
responsible for 36% of all registered infant deaths in Guatemala
between 1997 and 2000.

The report also says manmade chemicals such as pesticides have an
increasing impact on the health of poor people. A survey of child
labour in several developing countries, it says, found more than 60%
of all working children were exposed to hazardous conditions, and more
than 25% of these hazards were due to exposure to chemicals

"Without a healthy, productive labour force, we will not have the
economic growth that is necessary to ensure a pathway out of poverty.
Poor people are the first to suffer from a polluted environment," said
Warren Evans, director of the bank's environment department.

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005