Which human activities benefit our environment

Environmental protection benefits human health

Marc Chardonnens, FOEN: Because the protection of people from harmful effects is one of the goals of the Environmental Protection Act. In areas such as air pollution control or water protection, the connection between environmental protection and protection of human health is particularly clear. The reduction of health risks is explicitly mentioned as a goal in part of the legislation.

We share other tasks with the Federal Office of Public Health. The FOPH covers the health-related aspects in particular when it comes to adapting to climate change, radiation protection or combating invasive alien species - some of which are highly allergenic or can transmit diseases.

Pascal Strupler, BAG: Today we are confronted with very different types of environmental pollution, some of which interact in complex ways with human health. Epidemiological studies show, for example, that air pollutants (such as fine dust, ozone or nitrogen oxides) and lung diseases such as asthma, allergies and chronic bronchitis favor.

The natural radioactive gas radon increases the risk of developing cancer in the long term. It is also undisputed that UV radiation damages genetic material and thus increases the risk of developing skin cancer.

Past experience with heavy metals such as lead, arsenic or mercury or with pesticides such as DDT shows that pollution of our environment with chemicals can harbor major health risks. They damage the nervous system or disrupt reproduction.

Climate change also has a direct impact on health. It favors various insects such as ticks and mosquitoes, which are potentially disease-transmitting. Alien plants are also growing increasingly, some of which have a very high potential for allergies. Older people or the chronically ill suffer from the increasing number of heat waves. As a result, 200 additional deaths were recorded in 2018.