Intended for healthcare professionals


Air pollution moves up the global health agenda

BMJ 2018; 363 doi: (Published 27 November 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k4933

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. Natalia Linou, policy specialist1,
  2. Jessica Beagley, policy research manager2,
  3. Suvi Huikuri, consultant1,
  4. Nina Renshaw, policy and advocacy director3
  1. 1United Nations Development Programme, New York, NY, USA
  2. 2NCD Alliance, London, UK
  3. 3NCD Alliance, Geneva, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to: Natalia Linou Natalia.linou{at}

UN recognises air pollution as a key risk factor for NCDs

The international community working on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) has historically focused on four disease groups (diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and chronic respiratory diseases) and four risk factors (tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity). The United Nations high level meeting on NCDs, held in September 2018, signalled a shift from this four-by-four approach to a five-by-five response, adding mental health conditions and key environmental risk factors to the lists.

The opportunities and implications of this shift in scope are substantial: from an exclusive focus on what are often considered purely behavioural risk factors to a wider consideration of environmental determinants of health, including indoor and outdoor air pollution, water and soil pollution, and climate change.1

Aligned with this expansion of NCD priorities at the United Nations, the World Health Organization now officially recognises air pollution as a fifth risk factor …

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