Environment’s impact on health

What is the Environment’s impact on health at AstraZeneca?

Company efforts to prevent disease and improve health outcomes by addressing environmental determinants of health. These determinants include climate change, air and water quality, the built environment, the environmental dimension of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), among others.

Our approach

We recognise that everything is interconnected. The health of our planet has a direct impact on human health. We strive to prevent disease and improve health by addressing how the environment impacts human health. Our strategy on this issue is Healthy Planet, Healthier People. Our approach follows that by contributing to a healthy planet, we can improve the health of people. In 2019, this strategy was launched to address our environmental impacts from the beginning of our research process to cross-sector collaborations for improved planetary health.

Our stories

Health is Everyone’s Business

A cross-industry initiative, the United Nations (UN) led group “Health is Everyone’s Business,” drives progress on Sustainable Development Goal 3 - Good Health and Wellbeing - as part of the UN Global Compact. A result of this collaboration is the Business Leadership Brief for Healthy Planet, Healthy People which outlines concrete actions for companies to embed health and empowerment in their operations. This brief includes case studies from AstraZeneca that highlight our work on the connection between a healthy planet and healthier people.

Turning waste into clean energy - social and environmental impacts

Personal exposure to air pollution is the greatest environmental risk factor for mortality, responsible for 6.4 million deaths in 2015 (11% of global deaths). In Africa, air pollution causes about 780,000 premature deaths per year.1

To address this reality, we launched a pilot project at Lake Victoria’s Dunga Beach in Kenya to transform waste into clean energy. This collaboration with the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) focuses on preventing exposure to air pollutants by offering a substitute to wood-burning cookstoves. The project installed 50 domestic scale digesters that provide the energy needs for some of the poorer households and two community scale biodigesters that produce gas on the lake shore for commercial use by fish fryers and fish processors.

In the 38 households surveyed before and after their biodigesters were installed, two-thirds of families reported that their health had improved with less eye pain, fatigue, flu and asthma, and fewer coughs, headaches and back problems (from carrying wood). Indoor air quality in twelve households (eight with biogas and four without) demonstrated reduced carbon monoxide emissions. Households saved around US$19 (1,980 KSh) per month from not buying conventional fuels. This represents as much as 10–20 percent of average income in the community.

Incorporating environmental data to help patients with asthma

Three hundred million people live with asthma worldwide, yet 5-10% of patients with asthma cannot achieve symptom control with existing therapies. In one study, patients with severe uncontrolled asthma used sensor and connected devices to better understand their personal disease experience and triggers, with a goal of creating a predictive algorithm that would enable patients to self-manage their condition and modify risk factors for an improved quality of life. In addition to other biomarkers, the measured triggers include environmental data such as air quality index, pollen level and allergens and weather data.

Research on antibiotics in the environment

Pharmaceuticals can enter waterways via patients and our own operations, so we must understand the limits to ensure we are protecting the health of the planet and people by not overburdening waterways. AstraZeneca and other industry scientists published a paper that sets discharge limits for drug production that protects both human and environmental health. See our approach to Pharmaceuticals in the Environment for more information.

The discharge limits set by the AMR Industry Alliance follows the recommendations of two AstraZeneca papers2,3. These papers show that the environmental organisms responsible for 70% of the planet’s primary productivity (carbon dioxide fixation from the atmosphere) are particularly sensitive to antibiotics and need greater protection. The AstraZeneca approach offers greater protection to those organisms that are helping to mitigate the climate crisis.

Learn more about Environment's impact on health in our Sustainability Report.


1. http://www.scielo.org.za/pdf/caj/v28n1/11.pdf

2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412017309005

3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science3. /article/pii/S0048969719337453