About The Lancet Commission on Pollution + Health

The Commission on Pollution and Health is an initiative of The Lancetthe Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP), and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinaiwith additional coordination and input from United Nations Environment, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and the World Bank. The Commission comprises many of the world’s most influential leaders, researchers and practitioners in the fields of pollution management, environmental health and sustainable development. The aim of the Commission is to reduce air, soil and water pollution by communicating the extraordinary health and economic costs of pollution globally, providing actionable solutions to policy-makers and dispelling the myth of pollution’s inevitability. The Commission Report was published in The Lancet, one of the world’s most prestigious and widely read medical journals, on October 19, 2017.


Environmental pollution is the single largest cause of disease and death in low- and middle-income countries. Data from the World Health Organization and others suggests that in 2012 exposures to polluted soil, water and air contributed to an estimated 8.9 million deaths worldwide.(1, 2) By comparison, deaths from HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis caused a combined 2.5 million deaths.(3, 4) More than one death in seven worldwide is the consequence of environmental pollution.(5) Despite the tremendous impacts on human health and the global economy, environmental pollution has been undercounted and insufficiently addressed in national policies and international development agendas.(6, 7)

Pollution is strongly linked to poverty.(8) The overwhelming majority of the disease burden from pollution—over 92%—falls on residents of low- and middle-income countries. It disproportionally affects countries that are ill equipped to deal with the problem, and vulnerable populations without the resources to protect themselves. The disproportionate poisoning of the poor is a global environmental injustice. In addition to impacts on human health, pollution carries an economic cost that is often overlooked.(9) Pollution-related illnesses result in direct medical costs, costs to healthcare systems and opportunity costs resulting from lost productivity and economic growth.

The good news is that pollution controls are feasible, cost-effective and replicable. The most effective strategies control pollution at its source. In many countries, lead has been removed from gasoline, industrial discharges to air and water have been controlled and highly toxic pesticides have been replaced by safer substitutes. These actions provide a blueprint that can be transferred and replicated globally.

Despite its importance and preventability, environmental pollution has not received the priority it merits in the international development agenda. Solving the pollution problem requires us to measure and demonstrate its true costs, and the benefits of addressing it now. With that information in hand, world leaders can explain and justify actions to solve the problem for current and future generations.

Scope and Goals:

The Global Commission on Pollution and Health addresses the full health and economic costs of air, water and soil pollution. Through analyses of existing and emerging data, the Commission reveals pollution’s severe and underreported contribution to the Global Burden of Disease. It uncovers the economic costs of pollution to low- and middle-income countries, and compares the costs of inaction to the costs of available solutions. It informs key decision makers around the world about the burden that pollution places on health and economic development, and about available pollution control solutions and strategies. The Commission brings pollution squarely into the international development agenda.


In addition to publication in The Lancet, the Report findings were distributed widely through media outlets, reaching over 2 billion people and counting.  The work of the Commission was also covered extensively through special partnerships with high-profile media organizations. The publication of the Report coincided with public events around the world highlighting pollution’s impacts.  

Core Team Leaders

The Commission is chaired by Philip Landrigan, MD, a distinguished professor and physician, and the Dean for Global Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and by Richard Fuller, Founder and President of Pure Earth and Secretariat of the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution.

The work of the Commission is overseen by a Steering Committee composed of the following representatives:

  • Philip Landrigan, Commission Co-Chairman and Lead Author of Commission Report Chapter 1
  • Richard Fuller, Commission Co-Chairman and Co-Lead Author of Commission Report Chapter 4
  • Maureen Cropper, Co-Lead Author of Commission Report Chapter 2
  • Alan Krupnick, Co-Lead Author of Commission Report Chapter 2
  • Karti Sandilya, Lead Author of Commission Report Chapter 3
  • David Hanrahan, Co-Lead Author of Commission Report Chapter 4
  • Tim Kasten, representing United Nations Environment
  • Yewande Awe, representing the World Bank Group

The Chairmen are joined by an esteemed group of Commissioners from around the world, which includes former heads of state, leaders from multilateral development agencies; Ministers of Heath and Environment; a Nobel Laureate; distinguished physicians, economists and scientists; noted environmental advocates and public figures. Commissioners contribute subject matter expertise and leadership, and serve as the Commission’s ambassadors to the public.

Research and drafting for the Commission Report is coordinated through the office of Pure Earth, and includes contributions from Lead Authors, Commissioners, partner organizations, advisors, consultants and in-house staff. 

The Commission Report was put through three phases of review before publication: an initial review by the steering committee, a review by the Commissioners; and a full peer- review process according to the internal publication guidelines of The Lancet.

Partnering to Solve Pollution Problems