|TARGET #||DESCRIPTION||SA STATUS
(PER 2019 COUNTRY REPORT)
|3.9||By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination
|Mortality from unintentional poisoning in 2011 was 0,2 per 100 000 and was also 0,2 per 100 000 in 2015
Vast amounts of research prove that our health depends on our environment. We are dependent on the environment to sustain us − for example rivers for the water we drink; land and the oceans for the food we eat; the air that we breathe; and other resources to build our homes or to produce what we consume. If our environment is polluted, our physical body is affected resulting in diseases, reduced quality of life and/or death.
A recent report by the EU’s environment agency (the EEA) indicated that ‘air and noise pollution, poor water quality and exposure to chemicals contributed to 13% of all deaths’ within the EU. The World Health Organisation (WHO) also states that air pollution ‘accounts for a third of all fatalities (worldwide) from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease’.
Research undertaken in the UK indicated a link between pollution and lung cancer in addition to stunted lung growth in children,  and that cardiac arrest, asthma and strokes are also linked to air pollution. The EEA suggested the following measures to reduce the impact of air pollution: reducing road traffic and creating ‘green and blue cities’ as the latter “cool cities during heatwaves, alleviate flood waters, reduce noise pollution and support urban biodiversity’.
Also, over a few decades, we have dumped tonnes of garbage such as plastics into the ocean. Of the most devastating elements of this pollution is that plastics take thousands of years to decay. As a result, fish and wildlife are becoming contaminated, and consequently the toxins from the plastics have entered the food chain, threatening human health.
These deaths and diseases are all avoidable if as a species we take measures to reduce and try to eliminate activities that result in environmental pollution. This means examining our behaviours and changing those that are detrimental to the environment and, in turn, us. For example, the activities or behaviours to think about first:
- What mode of transport do you use and how often?
- The use of plastics: why, when and how do you use plastics? Can you replace it with a recyclable substitute?
- How do you dispose of waste? Do you reuse, reduce and recycle? Do you litter?
You could also help by help creating a stats database to manage and measure air pollution in South Africa and the impact it is having on our health.
Here are some infographics that may be useful as a quick way of understanding the problem:
- Air pollution: https://www.who.int/airpollution/infographics/en/
- Ocean pollution: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/coral-pollution.html, https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/sunscreen-corals.html
 This article provides a great starting point for exploring developing data for this SDG 3 target: https://lifeaftercoal.org.za/media/news/amidst-the-COVID-19-pandemic-government-locks-sa-into-deadly-air-pollution.