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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Washington: GBD Study Could Benefit From More Environmental Health, Climate Change Estimates

Recent estimates in the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study show that the combination of air pollution, poor water sanitation, and exposure to lead and radon is responsible for nine million premature deaths each year. Though this figure is large, it captures only a fraction of the real burden, and it doesn’t consider climate change, say a community of scientists led by University of Washington School of Public Health researchers.

In a new paper, the researchers highlight key challenges that limit the scope and accuracy of current GBD estimates for environmental health risk factors and propose strategies to clarify the true environmental footprint on health from chemical pollution and climate change. The paper was published as a Commentary in Environmental Health Perspectives on Oct. 18.

“There are currently no GBD estimates related to a host of globally-distributed toxic pollutants or to climate change, which is arguably the greatest environmental threat of them all,” says Dr. Howard Hu, corresponding author of the Commentary and an affiliate professor in the School’s Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences. Specifically, climate change is not considered in a new type of GBD analysis, published in The Lancet in 2018, that forecasts health and drivers of health on a global scale over the next 20 years.

To close the gap in estimates of environmental health-related disease burden, including those attributed to climate change, Dr. Hu and others came together to form the GBD-Pollution and Health Initiative. The group proposes a research agenda in the Commentary.

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