Ananta Aspen Centre and WWF India holds public session on Toxic pollution

   Feb 19, 8:12 pm

New Delhi, Feb.19 (ANI): To bring greater public focus on the issue of toxic pollution, the Ananta Aspen Centre in collaboration with World Wide Fund (WWF) India hosted a public session on "Toxic Pollution in India: The Unseen Public Health Menace" here today.

The session was chaired by WWF India Secretary General and CEO Ravi Singh.

As per the World Health Organisation, toxic pollution, chemicals and wastes constitute an under-recognized global health hazard and one-fifth of the global burden of disease is attributable to environmental health problems.

Worldwide, populations at risk from toxic pollution exceed 200 million, and the burden of this exposure is borne by the poorest living in low and middle income countries.This little known yet major public health and environmental issue affects India as much as it does other developing countries. According to the World Bank, environmental degradation costs India $80 billion annually and accounts for 23 percent of the country's child mortality rate.

A 2013 study conducted by the international environment organization, Blacksmith Institute across 373 sites in India, Indonesia and Philippines revealed that exposure to toxic wastes posed a serious health risk for nearly 8.6 million people. Sadly, children and pregnant women were the ones found to be most affected by toxicants such as lead, mercury and chromium-commonly found at waste sites.

Addressing the gathering, The Blacksmith Institute President Richard Fuller and Chairman H Conrad Meyer III concurred that toxic pollution was 'a global epidemic.'

"Our 2013 study on hotspots across India revealed that exposure to potent neurotoxins such as lead and hex chromium directly affects immune responses, increases the threat of cancer and cardiovascular disease, and may even cause disability. Also, contrary to common perception, the main sources of exposure are not international Multi-National Corporations, but smaller local companies, abandoned waste sites and artisanal units," asserted Mr Fuller.

"Health risks emanating from toxic pollution are comparable to those from outdoor pollution and malaria. With help from World Bank, Blacksmith Institute and others, the Indian government is tackling this issue. It is currently remediating the 10 worst polluted sites in the country. But the scale of the problem requires efforts from all stakeholders: government, industry, NGOs and the general public," he added.

Reflecting on the Indian response to the challenge, Meyer said, "Poorly managed unites especially in the informal sector and waste sites are toxic hubs that are present in every developing nation. India has begun to take strong steps in a positive direction. There is both a will and a way to mitigate toxic pollution here. There is a renewed sense of responsibility. I believe pushing for strong enforcement by government agencies and encouraging big, private players in helping the smaller units is key to bring about a change."

The study was one of the first to measure the burden of disease emanating from toxic waste sites. Researchers from the Blacksmith Institute found that in 125 Indian sites, chromium contamination had affected 2.6 million people, while in 96 sites, pollution caused by led had caused negatively impacted the health of 1.25 million people. Mining and ore processing sector was identified as the top source of toxic contamination in India, followed by chemical manufacturing, smelting and textiles. (ANI)

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