Background

We live in a drastically changed world. During much of the last century, infectious, communicable diseases caused most deaths in the world. This was especially true in low-income, developing countries. That is no longer the case. At present, the World Health Organization estimates that nearly 70% of all deaths globally are related to non-communicable illnesses, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and other chronic disorders. In industrialized, developed countries, non-communicable disease mortality rate is between 80% and 90%.

According to many leading experts, these disease-related trends have a simple explanation – our human-made environment has not only been degraded by rising air, water and soil pollution in many regions, but a fundamental shift has occurred in how we manufacture, process, distribute and consume goods in an increasingly industrialized and globalized economy. We have just begun to recognize the long-term consequences and environmental health implications of living in a highly synthetic environment.

In most parts of the world, consumer goods, such as bottled water, carbonated beverages, baby formulas, microwave frozen foods, medical tubings, cosmetics, lotions and perfumes, are packaged or used in a variety of plastic materials. These materials contain loosely-bonded, softening additives called plasticizers that readily enter our environment. Many of them are suspected endocrine-disrupting chemicals or hormone-mimicking compounds. Several authoritative reports have recently indicated that if not curtailed or adequately regulated, these ubiquitous compounds have the potential to cause serious cumulative impact on human health.

In addition, human-related activities, such as climate change, degradation of ecosystems and adverse chronic impacts of toxic substances upon children and other vulnerable populations, continue to pose severe health risks in many regions of the globe. To address these and the newly emerging public health issues will require undertaking pioneering research studies and educational programs, along with seeking a large array of innovative solutions and non-traditional approaches. This would include developing new forms of communications skills and media outreach, while taking bold policy initiatives by both the public and private sectors.