For the first time in its history, the United Nations has recognized that everyone, everywhere, has the right to live in a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. Resolutions from the Human Rights Council in 2021 and the General Assembly in 2022 add this fundamental human right to the library of internationally recognized rights. As humanity confronts an unprecedented planetary crisis, it is my genuine hope that the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment will serve as a catalyst for systemic and transformative changes to produce a just and sustainable future in harmony with nature.
All human beings depend on the environment in which we live. A safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment is integral to the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water and sanitation. Without a healthy environment, we are unable to fulfil our aspirations or even live at a level commensurate with minimum standards of human dignity. At the same time, protecting human rights helps to protect the environment. When people are able to learn about, and participate in, the decisions that affect them, they can help to ensure that those decisions respect their need for a sustainable environment.
This brochure by the World Health Organizations gives a short overview of the impacts of the environment on human health. It states the major causes of death and describes how the environment affects people and whose health is impacted the most.
Nearly 92 percent of pollution-related deaths occur in low-income and middle-income countries. Children face the highest risks because small exposures to chemicals in utero and in early childhood can result in lifelong disease, disability, premature death, as well as reduced learning and earning potential.