UN Recommends Measures to Tackle Air Pollution, Antimicrobial Resistance
UN Photo/Mark Garten
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UNICEF assesses the impacts of air pollution on infants, noting the serious and widespread nature of the problem in South Asia and parts of East Asia and the Pacific.

UNEP warns that antibiotics in the environment are causing bacteria to evolve into "ferocious superbugs" that pose a major health risk.

December 2017: UN agencies are tracing the connections between environmental and human health, in two publications released in December 2017. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has assessed the impacts of air pollution on infants, noting the serious and widespread nature of the problem in South Asia and parts of East Asia and the Pacific. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warns that antibiotics in the environment are causing the evolution of bacteria into “ferocious superbugs” that pose a major health risk.

A UNICEF report titled, ‘Danger in the Air,’ argues that air pollution ranks with violence, lack of nutrition and lack of stimulation in terms of its impacts on infant health. The authors call for action to reduce air pollution, reduce children’s exposure to air pollution and improve child health overall. To reduce air pollution, they suggest investing in clean energy, improving access to public transport, increasing green spaces in urban areas and preventing the open burning of harmful chemicals. To limit children’s exposure to air pollution, they recommend the use of child-sized air filtration masks, traveling during lower air pollution times of day, and planning for pollution sources to be located away from schools, clinics and hospitals. In addition, the authors call for improved monitoring of air pollution to better understand the scale and nature of the problem.

A UNEP report titled, ‘Frontiers 2017: Issues of Emerging Concern,’ reviews emerging issues of environmental concern, and with regard to health, identifies antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as “one of the biggest global public health concerns” of the 21st century. The publication describes how antibiotic use has greatly increased in human health care, animal husbandry and aquaculture, as well as how these drugs enter the environment and contribute to the evolution of bacteria into strains that resist treatment. The report recommends tackling the release of antimicrobial drugs, contaminants and resistant bacteria into the environment, and ensuring proper use and disposal of antibiotic pharmaceuticals. UNEP Executive Director Erik Solheim, speaking at the report launch during the third session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-3) in December 2017, warned that the careless use of antibiotics is leading to the rise of “ferocious superbugs.”

The ‘Frontiers 2017’ report also discusses nanomaterials, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), sand and dust storms, off-grid electricity, and tackling the environmental drivers and impacts of migration. [UNICEF Press Release] [Publication: Danger in the Air] [UNEP Press Release] [‘Frontiers 2017’ Report Webpage] [Publication: Frontiers 2017: Issues of Emerging Concern] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Frontiers Report]


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