40 Percent Of Deaths Are Environmental

ITHACA, N.Y. -- A Cornell University analysis of population trends, climate change, increasing pollution and emerging diseases, as published in the October 1998 journal BioScience, points to one inescapable conclusion: Life on Earth is killing us.

An estimated 40 percent of world deaths can now be attributed to various environmental factors, especially organic and chemical pollutants, according to a study led by David Pimentel, professor of ecology and agricultural sciences at Cornell.

"More and more of us are living in crowded urban ecosystems that are ideal for the resurgence of old diseases and the development of new diseases," said Pimentel, lead author of the BioScience report titled "Ecology of Increasing Disease: Population Growth and Environmental Degradation."

"We humans are further stressed -- and disease prevalence is worsened -- by widespread malnutrition and the unprecedented increase in air, water and soil pollutants," he said.

Global climate change will make matters even worse for humans and "better" for disease, the Cornell study predicts. Increased heat favors most human diseases, as well as the diseases and pests of food crops, and the coming century will see masses of weakened "environmental refugees" fleeing their home areas in a desperate search for food, the researchers said.

The disease-ecology analysis was performed by a team of 11 graduate student researchers who gathered data from a variety of sources, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as previous studies at Cornell and other universities. Their findings span a planet made less habitable by human habitation:

-- Each year, air pollutants adversely affect the health of 4 to 5 billion people worldwide. An expanding world population is burning more fossil fuels, emitting more industrial chemicals and driving more automobiles. The number of automobiles is increasing thre

Contact: Roger Segelken
Cornell University News Service

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