The spread of the Zika virus may be the fault of climate change, says a senior United Nations official.
"The spread of Zika, just as with Ebola, has sent a strong signal to the international community that there is a need for increased attention to the linkages between environment and health," said U.N. Environment Program Director Achim Steiner.
"Skin cancer. Lung cancer. Asthma. Lead poisoning. Mercury poisoning. Malaria. Ebola. Zika. The list of health conditions that can be linked to environmental pollution and degradation is long and growing," a U.N. news brief says.
Steiner on Thursday urged nations to take more aggressive action to combat climate change, underscoring findings that show a significant number of premature deaths are attributed to environmental problems. "Every year, nearly 7 million people die because they are exposed to indoor and outdoor air pollution, from power generation, cookstoves, transportation, industrial furnaces, wildfires or other causes," Steiner said.
"We are eating into an ecological infrastructure that not only sustains us, but protects us. The fallout from the footprint of human activity in the 21st century seems to grow every year," he added.
Steiner made the comments while addressing a group of 300 delegates that form the environment program's Committee of Permanent Representatives that is meeting this week in Nairobi, Kenya.
The representatives are meeting to prepare for the United Nations Environment Assembly, regarded as the "highest-level decision-making body on the environment," according to the U.N. brief. The environmental assembly convenes at the end of May.