How to strengthen environmental health for citizens

Elected officials, institutions, health professionals, associations and citizens can promote training and information to improve awareness of environmental health and waste management concerns:

  • due to the more or less well-known impact on health of exposure to environmental pollution
  • the fact that everyone is involved in their own health and that of others
  • as a beneficiary to take into account the need for an environment favorable to health, in particular by local authorities and other players in town and country planning

The objective of this initiative revolves around the following concepts:

  • inform or communicate, which consists in sharing, transmitting something to someone without necessarily expecting the person concerned to have specific behavior or skills
  • raise awareness, which means to be able to react to something of which we have become aware; the objective sought is often the modification or adaptation of a behavior or an attitude towards a given situation
  • train what corresponds to giving an education in order to acquire additional specific skills

The objective is to create a common culture of stakeholders in environmental health education, to promote the appropriation by local authorities of their role in environmental health. It is also to promote the development by the general public of behaviors favorable to environmental health, to promote urban planning, regional planning and mobility favorable to health concerns, to better support urban development projects and to promote the health dimension awareness.

Land use planning projects and operations condition the main environmental determinants that can have an impact on the health of the population. However, these links between town and country planning, mobility and health are underestimated, even overlooked.

Today, the terms health and environment do not appear explicitly in town planning documents, but these documents incorporate the concepts of noise, air quality, mobility, etc.

The objective of this initiative is to ensure that health and environmental issues are integrated at each stage of urban development and alternative mobility projects and operations, whatever their territorial scale and beyond regulatory obligations. It is important to change the vision of the public authorities on these aspects and to provide better waste management solutions to reduce pollution.

At the same time, citizens must be brought to develop their practices and get involved in the co-construction of projects. Knowing the impact of air pollution on people’s health is key. In 2013, WHO classified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic. It is the average level of pollution of the air we breathe that has the greatest impact on our health. If all the municipalities in the region reached the lowest concentrations observed in the equivalent municipalities, thousands of deaths would be avoided each year.

The areas more particularly impacted by atmospheric pollution are linked to human activities. The combination with social inequalities in health must be taken into account to determine the so-called priority challenges areas. To date, there is a lack of knowledge about these areas. More specifically, in these territories, suitable and accessible tools must be made available to stakeholders to help decision-making and deploy relevant actions, in particular aimed at changing behavior with respect to waste management and pollution.

This action includes two complementary measures:

  • develop knowledge and exposure maps relating to the quality of outdoor air
  • better characterize these so-called priority challenges areas with regard to air pollution
  • conduct a feasibility study on the cross-referencing of environmental, health and social deprivation data, in order to subsequently develop a tool to determine areas with priority challenges vis-à-vis air pollution
  • Reduce the expansion of plants that emit allergenic pollens

    Pollens are recognized by the environmental code as air pollution by biological agents. Actions on the problem of the presence of allergenic pollens in the air need to be carried out at different geographical levels and in a coordinated manner.

    The USA is affected by numerous plants with allergenic pollen (plane tree, cypress, grasses, ragweed, etc.). The geographic distribution varies depending on the species. Between 15% and 20% of the population suffers from pollinosis due to the presence of allergenic pollens in the air.

    A surveillance system was implemented by the National Aerobiological Surveillance Network, which has sensors to determine the amounts of allergenic pollens in the air. Sentinel pollinariums aim to finely detect the beginning and the end of the emission of pollens from locally gathered species (main plants and shrubs whose pollen is allergenic in the geographical area).

    This additional information, which comes under national systems, is transmitted to allergy sufferers who adapt the course of their treatment. In addition some states have set up a cartopollen tool which makes it possible to predict precisely, at the scale of the county, from phenological data, weather and land use, cypress pollen emissions. Finally, there are observatory type devices on the presence of allergenic plants or production of pollens.

    This action aims to make legible, even coordinate, on the regional territory, the system for monitoring and reducing colonization by plants with allergenic pollens.

    Possible Consequences of Overpopulation


    We would be more than 7.77 billion human beings on Earth and two billion more in 2050. What is the impact of overcrowding on the environment and global resources?

    Today, we are more than 7.77 billion human beings on Earth (last revision of the United Nations, in its report of March 2020). According to the latest projections, we will be 9.5 billion by 2050. We can explain these forecasts by the demographic explosion in emerging countries and the lengthening of life in developed countries.

    Global overpopulation and water supplies

    Water is the most precious resource on Earth: global overpopulation could lead to generalized conflicts linked to the blue gold. Clashes already exist, since water is one of the main causes of tensions in the Middle East. A global water conflict would therefore have dire consequences. Currently, 80 countries lack water and one in five people does not have access to clean water. There are solutions to overcome this shortage, such as the desalination of seawater, which is still costly.

    How much fresh water is there in the world?

    Covering about three-quarters of the Earth’s surface, water a priori is not lacking on our planet. Unfortunately most of this water is salty and is not directly usable by humans. What about fresh water?

    Recall that we call fresh water – as opposed to sea water – water with low salinity and which is therefore likely to be fit for consumption by humans and animals. Fresh water is the water of rivers, lakes, rains, etc.

    The total volume of water on Earth is estimated at around 1.4 trillion billion cubic meters. A relatively stable volume over time.

    What is the percentage of fresh water?

    On Earth, 97.5% of the water is salty and contained in the oceans. Only 2.5% is fresh water, or approximately 35.2 million billion cubic meters. On this amount of water:

    • 68.7% are found in glaciers
    • 30.1% in the groundwater
    • 0.8% in permafrost
    • 0.4% at the surface and in the atmosphere

    In the end, less than 1% of the water on Earth is fresh, liquid water.

    Lake Baikal, with its 23,000 billion cubic meters of water, constitutes the largest reservoir of liquid fresh water on the surface of the planet. It is classified as World Heritage of Humanity for the richness of the fauna it shelters.

    A large sphere of 1,400 km in diameter would concentrate all of the earth’s water (salt and fresh). A smaller sphere of 272.8 km in diameter would represents the total volume of fresh water. And finally an even smaller sphere of 56.2 km in diameter would concentrates all of the earth’s fresh water available for consumption (lake, river, part of the groundwater).

    The uneven distribution of freshwater on Earth

    On the surface of the globe, water is distributed very unevenly. The United Nations calls nine countries “power of water”, namely: Brazil, Colombia, Russia, India, Canada, the United States, Indonesia, Congo and China – which account for 60% of the world’s annual water flow. And inequalities can even appear within a country. India for example has desert regions and others that are regularly flooded by the monsoon.

    The water war

    Climate risks and natural disasters can cause scarcity and or pollution of freshwater. Human activities, domestic, agricultural or industrial discharges, diversion of rivers, etc, can also impact water resources. However, a man cannot survive more than three days without water. And that resource is essential to hygiene.

    When the water resource is insufficient to meet human activities and the needs of the environment, that is to say, below 1,700 cubic meters per person per year, we speak of water stress. And a UN report published in 2019 pointed to the close link between water scarcity and mismanagement, and the emergence of tensions and conflicts around the world.

    Global overpopulation and food

    Currently, the most developed countries have enough resources to feed the entire population of the planet. However not all people on the planet eat their fill, as food is unevenly distributed. One of the consequences of global overpopulation would be to aggravate these inequalities, causing famines.

    Global overpopulation and pollution

    The pollution of the planet is not directly linked to global overpopulation. The most developed countries are the most polluting, but also those with the lowest birth rates. Hiring dumpster rentals to remove junk is not going to be enough to control pollution in the Western World hooked in overconsumption. Healthier greener habits must be developped.

    An American pollutes 91 times more than a Bangladeshi resident. However if the growth of emerging countries continues to rise and if developed countries do not restrict the pollution they generate, then global overpopulation will have a disastrous consequence on the environment of our planet.