India and China account for about 38 per cent of the 13 million deaths worldwide caused by environmental health problems, says the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) first ever country-by-country analysis on the subject.
But WHO officials insist the 5 million deaths in both these countries is not statistically significant considering their huge populations.
An average of 68 years of ill health per 1,000 inhabitants are caused by environmental health issues in India, compared to 54 in Russia, 37 in Brazil and 34 in China.
The best rated countries were Iceland and Israel with a score of 14 years per 1,000, ahead of Italy (16), Germany, Spain and France (17 each), Great Britain (18) and the United States (19).
"As much as 24 per cent of disease in India can be attributed to preventable environmental causes such as unsafe drinking water, air pollution and breeding places for mosquitoes, which are the vectors for malaria and dengue," says Dr Sattar A Yoosuf, director, Department of Sustainable Development, and Healthy Environments, WHO Regional Office for Southeast Asia, told HT.
In 23 countries worldwide, more than 10 per cent deaths are due to just two environmental risk factors: unsafe water, including poor sanitation and hygiene; and indoor air pollution due to solid fuel use for cooking. Children under five years make up 74 per cent of deaths due to diarrhoeal disease and chest and respiratory infections.