Press Release – Global Alliance Launches Commission

Global Alliance Launches Commission on Pollution, Health and Development To Address Largest Cause of Death in Developing Countries

Oct. 1, 2015, Geneva, Switzerland — The Global Commission on Pollution, Health and Development was launched at the 4th Session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM4), in Geneva, Switzerland. The announcement was made by a panel of world leaders and experts in the fields of pollution management, environmental health and sustainable development.

P1170894 smaller

The Commission brings together former heads of state; leaders from multilateral development agencies; a Nobel Laureate; and other noted physicians, economists and scientists from a broad range of backgrounds to address the global crisis of life-threatening toxic pollution.

Despite being the largest cause of death in developing countries today, toxic pollution is insufficiently addressed in national policies and in the international development agenda. The Commission aims to give world leaders a complete picture of the burden that pollution places on individuals and countries to help them justify concrete action. The Commission Report will be published next year in The Lancet, one of the world’s most prestigious and widely read medical journals.

“We need to dispel the myth that pollution is inevitable. In fact, pollution is a problem that can be solved in our lifetime,” said Richard Fuller, President of Pure Earth, which serves as Secretariat of the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution

“The Commission will show that solutions are feasible, cost-effective and replicable. By analyzing existing and emerging data, we will uncover the devastating costs of inaction on pollution. This information is especially crucial now with the world’s attention focused on the newly-adopted Sustainable Development Goals,” explained Fuller.

At the launch event, former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari of Mexico (1988-1994) spoke about his reasons for being part of the Commission.

“Pollution affects us all, but especially our children. It not only affects our health but our economic development and prosperity. In Mexico, the problem of air pollution became so bad that children would paint pictures with the sky colored brown, and would draw the night sky without stars. We believe this is a problem that we have to solve decisively. It is a problem that requires market solutions, regulation, and the full participation of civil society. Solving this issue will be for the benefit of us all, but particularly for our children, and for this reason, I am honored to support this Commission,” said Salinas.

Barbara Hendricks, Minister of Environment, Germany stated,

“When we tackle pollution – be it the lack of safe water and sanitation, be it the exposure to contaminated sites or the lack of clean air to breathe – we do not justprotect human health and the environment. We also very much contribute to economic development: Especially in developing countries the adverse effects of pollution on health hinder or even render impossible any meaningful social and economic development.”

Comparing the goals of The Commission to The Stern Report, Minister Hendricks added,

“The Commission will generate numbers – numbers with Dollar signs or Euro signs attached. Numbers that will tell us what it costs in economic terms to pollute the environment and harm people’s health through pollution…The Stern Report once pursued a similar goal. It taught us why we need to tackle climate change now and not later, because postponing action will translate in much higher costs in the end… I very much hope that the report of this new Commission will be equally successful. We need it to raise awareness. We need it to change minds. We need it to reach people that until now believe that environmental policy comes only second afterinvesting into economic activities.”

Jairam Ramesh, Member of Parliament, India, agreed with the need for a global Commission.

“Pollution is such an enormous problem. We really have to come to grips with it. In my country, we are dealing with it in all sectors of society. The health impacts are so large and far-reaching. It just breaks your heart,” said Ramesh.

The announcement about the Commission was made at ICCM4 by a panel comprising:

  • Karti Sandilya (panel moderator), former U.S. Resident Director, Asian Development Bank
  • Carlos Salinas de Gortari, President, Mexico (1988-1994)
  • Achim Steiner, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme
  • Jairam Ramesh, Member of Parliament, India; Minister of Rural Development, India (2011-2014); Minister of Environment and Forests, India (2009-2011)
  • Barbara Hendricks, Minister of Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, Germany
  • Richard Fuller, President, Pure Earth (formerly Blacksmith Institute)

The Global Commission on Pollution, Health and Development is an initiative of The Lancet, the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP), and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, with input and coordination from the United Nations Environment Programmeand the World Bank.


The Commission aims not just to inform the public dialogue and increase awareness—these are means to an end—but to achieve the end in its self: reducing poverty, illness and death caused by toxic pollution, and building healthy, prosperous economies.

The Commission’s goal is to lay the foundation for solving the global pollution problem by defining pollution’s many effects on health, economics, and development, and then presenting these data to world leaders to raise the priority of pollution control in the international development agenda and thus increase the resources allocated to this pressing global health problem.

The Commission Report will reveal the true public health and economic impacts from pollution globally, and will provide actionable solutions to policymakers. It is designed not only to be studied by academics, but to reach those heads of state, ministers of finance and international leaders whose policy and budget decisions can mobilize real change on the ground, with tangible projects to prevent and clean up pollution that harms the most vulnerable populations.

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, President of Pure Earth, which serves as Secretariat of the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution.

Click here to see full list of Commissioners.



For interviews and more information, contact:  Magdalene Sim,

Partnering to Solve Pollution Problems