A study with Swiss participation has shown that lead is the top toxic threat worldwide, with an estimated 18-22 million people affected.
The 2010 Toxic Threat Report – the first of its kind – was drawn up by environmental groups Green Cross Switzerland and the United States-based Blacksmith Institute.
In a media statement on Wednesday, the groups said that lead comes from sources such as leaded gasoline for transportation, battery recycling and metal smelters. This made it a health risk for people on every continent.
“These pollution problems can be dealt with affordably and effectively," said Stephan Robinson, Unit Manager (Water, Legacy) at Green Cross Switzerland. In many cases, clean-up solutions already exist, he added.
Overall, the report found that the top six pollutants, which include mercury, arsenic and pesticides, put up to 100 million people at risk worldwide and that the health impacts were “much more substantial than previously estimated”.
These include mental and physical destabilizes, organ dysfunction and cancer.
The report called on the international community to do more to address the link between environmental pollution and human health, saying that only a fraction of aid was provided for clean-ups.
swissinfo.ch and agencies