Air pollution, dirty water, dangerous workplaces, and unsafe roads are some of the factors behind a quarter of all deaths in the world.
New estimates from the World Health Organisation suggest nearly one in four total global deaths in 2012 were the result of living and working in an unhealthy environment.
It also found deaths from diseases which aren't infectious or transmissible – such as stroke, heart disease, cancers and chronic respiratory disease – were on the rise. They now account for two thirds of these since its Preventing Disease Through Healthy Environments report was first published 10 years ago.
But deaths from infectious diseases, such as diarrhoea and malaria, often related to poor water, sanitation and waste management, have declined during this period.
“There’s an urgent need for investment in strategies to reduce environmental risks in our cities, homes and workplaces,” Dr Maria Neira, WHO director at the department of public health, environmental and social determinants of health, said.
“Such investments can significantly reduce the rising worldwide burden of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, injuries, and cancers, and lead to immediate savings in healthcare costs.”
The report found that children under five and adults aged 50 to 70 were most affected by environmental risks. It found better management could prevent the deaths of 1.7m children under five and 4.9m adults aged 50 to 75 annually.