UN Experts Urge to Protect the Rights of People to Live in Clean Environments

UN Experts Urge to Protect the Rights of People to Live in Clean Environments. Photo: UNEP
UN Experts Urge to Protect the Rights of People to Live in Clean Environments. Photo: UNEP

United Nations (UN) human rights experts are calling for strong, urgent action by States to ensure that people around the world can enjoy the human right to live in environments free from contamination.

“Air pollution is a major threat to human rights worldwide and toxic air pollutants are associated with an increased risk of disease from stroke, heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases, including asthma,” the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak, said in a news release issued Friday by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Three million deaths each year are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution, according to estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO). There is also growing research evidence indicating that air pollution has become the leading environmental cause of death in the world.


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Joining Mr. Tuncak in the appeal are Dainius Puras, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and John H. Knox, the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

“Children and people in vulnerable situations, including women of reproductive age, the elderly, those in poor health and those living in less wealthy communities remain the most vulnerable,” the experts warned.

According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 300 million children – almost one in seven of the world’s total, live in areas with the most toxic levels of outdoor air pollution, a situation paediatricians describe as a ‘silent pandemic.’

Photo courtesy: UNEP

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