More than a quarter of children under the age of 5 worldwide die from environmental degradation and pollution, a group of environmental organisations said Monday.
Pollution also causes up to 234 times as many premature deaths each year as conflicts, according to a report released by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the World Health Organisation and a range of other environmental institutes during the second United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2).
The UN's 193 member states are aiming to assess the current state of the global environment and develop global policy guidelines during the convention, which takes place in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on May 23-27.
In 2012, 23 per cent of all deaths - an estimated 12.6 million - were attributable to deteriorating environment conditions, according to the report.
Air pollution kills seven million people worldwide each year, while more than 840,000 people die from diarrhoeal diseases due to lack of access to clean water and sanitation. More than 100,000 people die annually from exposure to asbestos.
"By depleting the ecological infrastructure of our planet and increasing our pollution footprint, we incur an ever-growing cost in terms of human health," warned UNEP executive director Achim Steiner.