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Preventing non-communicable diseases (NDCs) by reducing environmental risk factors

Preventing non-communicable diseases (NDCs) by reducing environmental risk factors

Of the 12.6 million deaths caused by the environment each year, nearly two thirds are due to NCDs, which have risen sharply over the last decade. Growing evidence indicates that early life exposure to environmental risks, such as chemicals, radiation and air pollutants, might increase NCD risk throughout the life course. Current estimates of the disease burden from NCDs due to environmental risks are likely to be underestimated, due to challenges in assessing associations with long lag times, multiple toxic exposures, complex pathways or difficulties in assessing exposures.

Several environmental risks play a key role in the prevention of NCDs, with ambient air pollution causing 2.8 million deaths, household air pollution 3.7 million deaths, and occupational risks more than 1 million NCD deaths per year. Reducing environmental health risks from conception onwards would greatly reduce the vast and growing burden of NCDs, and it would be a crucial step in progressing towards achieving both the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013–2020. The impact of the environment on NCDs has been increasing since the last decade.