Lancet Commission: how developing countries can ‘leap-frog’ pollution on the road to prosperity

Developing countries can boost their economies while dodging the health and environmental damage that scarred earlier industrialization by adopting strict anti-pollution policies and embracing clean new technologies for energy, production and transport.

Tackling pollution can also help all countries meet the Global Goals under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the alleviation of poverty, universal access to clean water and the protection of ecosystems.

Published Friday by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, the report argues that pollution and its impacts have been neglected. It says more resources – including international development assistance – must be allocated to prevent the often under-appreciated damage done to economies, people and ecosystems.

It cites estimates that pollution-related diseases cause productivity losses that reduce the Gross Domestic Product of low- to middle-income countries by up to 2 per cent. It warns that the burden of pollution could rise because of the proliferation of new and untested chemicals and the shift of chemical production to low- and middle-income countries where health and environmental protections are lacking.

It calls for more research into pollution and its control, including the effects of ambient air pollution on children and the elderly, the health impacts of emerging pollutants such as endocrine disruptors and new pesticides, and into the health and economic benefits of action against pollution.

Other recommendations include increasing national and international funding for pollution control; integrating it into planning processes and global efforts to combat non-communicable diseases; and better monitoring of pollution and its health effects globally.