• Pre-Collegiate Global Health Review

The Iniquity of Environmental Pollutants on the Health of the Impoverished

Rijul Rajesh, Oakton High School, Oakton, Virginia, USA

The term “impoverished” has been defined by the World Bank to describe individuals living on just $1.90 a day (Poverty, n.d.). Environmental pollutants and their adverse effects on impoverished people’s health are interrelated. A few factors that arise as predominant offenders include industrial emissions, chemical runoff, and diminished economic support. Thus, an in-depth overview of the factors that cause environmental pollutants and their effects on human health must be addressed.

Excessive atmospheric pollutants from industrial plants result in a disproportionate spread of toxic industrial emissions in low-income countries (LICs), leading to poor health. A few examples include the spread of radioactive matter from Chernobyl’s nuclear plant in 1986 and Toronto's smog precipitation in 1988 (LaSane, 2019). According to the National Institutes of Health, industrial emissions result in “various acute and chronic diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, lung dysfunctions, skin and eye diseases, acute bronchitis, cardiovascular disease, and cancer” (Eom, 2018). These recurrent industrial emissions deplete scare natural resources and result in a decline of valuable human health in LICs.

In low-income countries, it becomes even more apparent for chemical pollutants to harm the health of the people. For example, industrial processes such as pulp and paper plants, tanning operations, and unsustainable forms of agriculture in LICs emit chemical effluents into the local soil, water, and air at dangerous rates. This, in turn, results in toxicity within the farmed crops and potable water, causing an array of medical issues (Hoque, 2018). Because the majority of LICs are fully dependent on natural resources for their livelihood, the chemical contaminations result in drastic effects on public health.

The current impact of environmental pollutants needs to be addressed and can be alleviated through effective economic policies. As environmental pollutants ravage global health, four primary organizations work to provide relief: Gavi (the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization), WHO, Global Fund, and the World Bank, the latter being the main economic benefactor. According to John Rawls, “Equity is not to be achieved by worsening the position of the least advantaged and each member of the society has an equal claim on their society’s goods” (Rawls, 1971). The World Bank released its Climate Change Action Plan 2021-2025 which delivers “record levels of climate finance to developing countries, reduce emissions, strengthen adaptation, and align financial flows with the goals of the Paris Agreement” (Gopalakrishnan, 2021). Several initiatives such as the Climate Change Action Plan have been taken by leading organizations to alleviate the effects of the pollutants on the impoverished through accesses such as funding and affordable healthcare establishment.

Given the status quo, the developed nations should be more diligent in their actions in consideration of people in LICs: a vital step towards a fairer, egalitarian world in the long run.


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