Health and the environment

Health and the environment

WHO/F. Guerrero

"By working together, we can create a future where health and environment are at the centre of sustainable development." – Regional Director, WHO Office for the Western Pacific.

The mandate of WHO’s environment and health programme is to support Member States in improving health outcomes linked to environmental risks including:

  • unsafe water and inadequate sanitation;
  • poor air quality (indoor and outdoor);
  • exposure to toxic, hazardous waste and chemicals; and
  • climate change.

A key emphasis is on enabling more collaboration between health and environment sectors. WHO aims to enhance capacity in countries through regional networks of experts, sharing of good practices among countries, research, policies and action on environmental and occupational hazards to health, and beefing up of environmental surveillance and information systems.

Towards Healthy Air and Healthy People in the Western Pacific Region

Globally, 7 million deaths were attributable to the joint effects of household (HAP) and ambient air pollution (AAP) in 2016. About 94% of these deaths occur in low and middle-income (LMI) countries. The Western Pacific Region suffers about 2.2 million deaths each year due to air pollution. The Region is responsible for 32% of global air-pollution-related deaths, despite having just 25% of the world's population.

Dioxins and our health

Dioxins are a group of highly toxic chemical compounds that are called persistent organic pollutants (POPs). They are found throughout the world in the environment. Dioxins mainly build up in the fatty tissue of animals, and the higher an animal is in the food chain, the higher the concentration of dioxins. Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and cause cancer.

Air pollution

Every 11 secondsa person dies from air pollution in the Western Pacific Region.

Read more on Air pollution

Chemicals and waste

Only 46%of WHO Member States have a poisons centre, key to the diagnosis and management of toxic exposures.

Read more on chemicals

Climate change

250 000additional deaths caused by climate change between 2030 to 2050.

Read more on Climate change

Health impact assessment

118HIAs conducted in Australia and New Zealand from 2005 to 2009.

Measuring health gains from sustainable development

Occupational health

14 milliondisability-adjusted life years (DALYs) in 2000 were due to work-related health risks in the Asia Pacific region.

Read more on occupational health

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)

550 millionpeople in the Western Pacific Region still do not have access to improved sanitation.

Read more on WASH

Featured publication

Sanitation, drinking-water and health : achievements and challenges ahead

Air pollution in the world: real time air quality map

  • View the interactive map here
    Worldwide, outdoor air pollution causes more than 3 million premature deaths each year. While some cities have already reached hazardous levels of air pollution – such as Delhi, India where smog practically covers the city daily – others are coming dangerously close. This new interactive map presents most of the world’s air quality in real time. (Linda Poon, The Atlantic Citylab)


Health and the Environment
Division of NCD and Health through the Life-Course
The World Health Organization
Regional Office for the Western Pacific
P.O. Box 2932
1000 Manila