In contrast to Covid's 5.9 million deaths, this malady kills more than 9 million people every year

WION Web Team
Geneva, Switzerland Updated: Feb 16, 2022, 08:41 AM(IST)

As part of this effort, it is also seeking the clean-up of polluted sites and, in severe cases, possible relocation of affected communities - largely poor, marginalized and indigenous - from so-called 'sacrifice zones'. The term has been expanded to describe any heavily contaminated site or place rendered uninhabitable by climate change. Originally, it referred to nuclear test zones. Photograph:( Reuters )

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A data aggregator Worldometer reports that an estimated 5.9 million people have died due to the Coronavirus pandemic, a number less than what pollution claims each year

 A UN environmental report published on Tuesday said pollution by states and companies contributes to more deaths globally than COVID-19, calling for "immediate and ambitious action" to ban some toxic chemicals.

There are widespread human rights violations caused by pesticides, plastics and electronic waste, as well as at least 9 million premature deaths a year, according to the report, which says the issue is being largely overlooked.

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A data aggregator Worldometer reports that an estimated 5.9 million people have died due to the Coronavirus pandemic, a number less than what pollution claims each year.

"Current approaches to managing the risks posed by pollution and toxic substances are clearly failing, resulting in widespread violations of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment," the report's author, UN Special Rapporteur David Boyd, concluded.

"I think we have an ethical and now a legal obligation to do better by these people," he said in an interview with Reuters.

UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) which has declared clean air and water a human right posted a draft of the document on their website on Tuesday. The document will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council next month.

It urges a ban on polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl, man-made chemicals used in household products such as non-stick cookware that have been linked to cancer and have been dubbed "forever chemicals" since they do not degrade easily.

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As part of this effort, it is also seeking the clean-up of polluted sites and, in severe cases, possible relocation of affected communities - largely poor, marginalized and indigenous - from so-called "sacrifice zones".

The term "sacrifice zones" has been expanded to describe any heavily contaminated site or place rendered uninhabitable by climate change. Originally, it referred to nuclear test zones.

"What I hope to do by telling these stories of sacrifice zones is to really put a human face on these otherwise inexplicable, incomprehensible statistics (of pollution death tolls)," Boyd said.

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Reuters reports that Boyd considers the report, the latest in a series he has written, to be his toughest yet. He expects "push-back" from the Council when the report is presented at the Geneva meeting.

Michelle Bachelet, UN rights chief, has called environmental threats the biggest global rights challenge. Climate and environmental justice cases are increasingly using human rights as a basis for argument.

An international conference on environmental issues will begin on Feb. 28 in Nairobi, Kenya. It is set to address chemical waste, including a proposal to establish a panel devoted to chemical waste, similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

(With inputs from agencies)

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