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Top Ten Toxic Threats 2013

Top Ten Toxic Threats 2013

Pollution Facts

Pollution is a Global Killer

Pollution likely affects over a billion people around the world, with millions poisoned and killed each year.  The World Heath Organization estimates that 25 percent of all deaths in the developing world are directly attributable to environmental factor.1 Some researchers estimate that exposure to pollution causes 40 percent of deaths annually.2

Pollution is Regarded as a Major (and quickly emerging) Factor in Disease

People affected by pollution problems are much more susceptible to contracting other diseases.  Others have impaired neurological development, damaged immune systems, and long-term health problems.

Women and Children are Especially at Risk, Children are Most Susceptible

Children are physiologically different and more vulnerable than adults. In some cases they have higher exposures since they eat, drink and breathe more per kilogram of body weight than adults and tend to ingest a lot more dirt and house dust than adults from their crawling around and playing outside.

While children only make up 10 percent of the world’s population, over 40 percent of the global burden of disease falls on them.  Indeed, more than three million children under age five die annually from environmental factors.

Death is Not the Only Toll of Exposure to Pollutants

Pollution causes chronic illness, neurological damage and shortened lifespan. For instance, the presence of lead in children lowers I.Q. by an estimated 4-7 points for each increase of 10 μg/dL.3  Our database identifies populations around the globe with blood lead levels ranging from 50 -100 μg/dL, up to 10 times the WHO reference levels for protection against neurological damage.

Pollution is Worst in the Developing World

The world’s worst polluted places are in the developing world.   Similar conditions no longer exist in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia today.  In wealthier countries, there are sufficient legal, political, cultural and economic disincentives for polluters to allow their activities to affect human health on a massive scale.  Unfortunately, many of these tactics do not work in developing countries that are trying to increase their industrialization and make themselves economically competitive for manufacturing and processing.

Pollution Contributes to Global Warming

Toxic emission from industry and other sources may contain greenhouse gases. Therefore some sources of pollution contribute to global warming.  Unlike global warming, where the negative effects are evolutionary and solutions elusive, the effects of pollution are immediate and deadly, and the solutions are well-known and available.

Pollution:  A Global Killer, a Solvable Problem

The understanding and the technology for remediation of all types of pollution sites is well established in the industrialized world, where life-threatening toxic pollution has almost been eliminated.  All that is needed to eliminate pollution worldwide is resources and commitment.


1. “Environment and Health in Developing Countries.”  World Health Organization Health and Environmental Linkages Initiative.  Last accessed October 21, 2009.  Available at  

2. Pimentel, D. et al. “Ecology of Increasing Diseases: Population Growth and Environmental Degradation.” Human Ecology. 35.6 [2007]: 653-668.

3. “Lead Toxicity: What are the Physiologic Effects of Lead Exposure?” Case Studies in Environmental Medicine. Last Updated August 20, 2007. Available at

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