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News Article

Environmental Issues Impact Human Health

By Miriam Bello | Tue, 06/22/2021 - 15:52

Environmental changes can significantly impact numerous aspects of human health. In Mexico, a significant percentage of annual deaths can be linked to poor air and water conditions.

The relationship between the environment and human activity is closely linked, so threats to the environment will cause problems to humans. In 2016, 24 percent of all deaths worldwide were attributable to the environment, explains WHO. Moreover, out of the 133 diseases listed in the WHO’s Global Health Observatory, 101 are strongly linked to the environment.

There are several environmental factors that can impact human health, some of the most common being physical and social environmental hazards such as pollution, toxic chemicals, food contaminants, dangerous work, poor housing conditions, urban sprawl and poverty. These factors can lead to communicable and noncommunicable diseases, malnutrition, accidents and injuries and mental disorders. Socially, these impacts result in increased healthcare expenditures, loss of shelter, lost income or increased personal expenditure to compensate for inadequate services.

OECD countries face higher exposure to air pollutants, particularly in urban areas, and chemicals in the environment. These chemicals are varied and can come from industry emissions, anti-fouling paints on marine vessels, pesticides, waste incineration and leakage from waste disposal sites. When agricultural production is exposed to noxious pesticides and fertilizers, these chemicals enter the food chain. Another means of consumption is through medication for livestock.

In Mexico, the “serious problem of pollution of the air that prevails in the country and that violates the right to health of millions of Mexicans, claiming the lives of 17,000 people every year, 1,680 of these deaths correspond to children under 5 years of age,” claim Greenpeace, El Poder del Consumidor and the Institute of Policies for Transportation and Development.

Among the most common diseases associated to air pollution are affectations on:

  • The respiratory system through inflammation.
  • The cardiovascular system through alterations in cardiac function, progression of development of atherosclerotic plaque, hypertension and inflammation.
  • The nervous system through formation of plaque b amyloid in the hippocampus and frontal cortex and inflammation.

Moreover, 78 percent of the COVID-19 deaths registered between February and May 2020 in Mexico came from areas with the greatest air environmental impact, from Santiago River, Jalisco, to Coatzacoalcos River, Veracruz, according to the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources and the Ministry of Health.

Water scarcity is the second largest environmental problem in Mexico, explains INEGI. About 33 percent of water basins are under high demand due to human settlements and agricultural activity. About 53 percent of the population lives in these basins, mainly in northern and central Mexico and 73 percent of those water bodies are polluted from discharges from urban centers and industries.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst