Public health impact of chemicals: knowns and unknowns

World Health Organization International Programme on Chemical Safety, 2016

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A brand new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.3 million lives and 43 million healthy life-years were lost in 2012 due to exposures to selected chemicals.

We are exposed to various chemicals every day, through multiple routes such as ingestion, inhalation and skin contact. But what exactly do we know about the public health impact of chemicals? And equally as important: what don’t we know yet?

The new report from the World Health Organization (WHO), Public health impacts of chemicals: knowns and unknowns, provides insights into these questions. It also provides concrete examples of effective interventions to prevent death and diseases caused by chemicals, and the economic benefits to be gained. It estimates that 1.3 million lives and 43 million healthy life-years were lost in 2012 due to exposures to selected chemicals.

However, data are only available for a small number of chemical exposures and people are exposed to many more chemicals every day. Unintentional poisonings are estimated to cause 193,000 deaths annually, with the major part being from preventable chemical exposures.

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