Food Hygiene

Knowns and unknowns on burden of disease due to chemicals: a systematic review

Prüss-Ustün et al. Environmental Health 2011, 10:9


Background: Continuous exposure to many chemicals, including through air, water, food, or other media andproducts results in health impacts which have been well assessed, however little is known about the total diseaseburden related to chemicals. This is important to know for overall policy actions and priorities. In this article theknown burden related to selected chemicals or their mixtures, main data gaps, and the link to public health policyare reviewed.Methods: A systematic review of the literature for global burden of disease estimates from chemicals wasconducted. Global disease due to chemicals was estimated using standard methodology of the Global Burden ofDisease.Results: In total, 4.9 million deaths (8.3% of total) and 86 million Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) (5.7% oftotal) were attributable to environmental exposure and management of selected chemicals in 2004. The largestcontributors include indoor smoke from solid fuel use, outdoor air pollution and second-hand smoke, with 2.0,1.2 and 0.6 million deaths annually. These are followed by occupational particulates, chemicals involved in acutepoisonings, and pesticides involved in self-poisonings, with 375,000, 240,000 and 186,000 annual deaths,respectively.

Conclusions: The known burden due to chemicals is considerable. This information supports decision-making inprogrammes having a role to play in reducing human exposure to toxic chemicals. These figures present only anumber of chemicals for which data are available, therefore, they are more likely an underestimate of the actualburden. Chemicals with known health effects, such as dioxins, cadmium, mercury or chronic exposure to pesticides could not be included in this article due to incomplete data and information. Effective public health interventions are known to manage chemicals and limit their public health impacts and should be implemented at national and international levels.


Written by geraldmoy

March 3, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Posted in Review, WHO

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