Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are those that are not infectious, progress slowly and last longer. Rapid urbanisation and ageing populations have exacerbated the rise of NCDs in the 21st century. The contributing risk factors are generally related to an individual’s lifestyle, which include an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and tobacco and alcohol intake. However, environmental factors such as chronic exposure to chemicals and pollution also play a role. These may include exposure to metals, pesticides, dyes, persistent organic pollutants, pharmaceuticals, chlorinated solvents and drinking water disinfectants.
The need to address environmental factors to prevent the rise of NCDs is being increasingly recognised. Antibiotics, for example, are one of the most commonly prescribed and used drugs to treat infections. Their use has been linked to NCDs through both cause and effect relationship. Antibiotic consumption in childhood can be a causal factor behind obesity in adulthood, which, in turn, may lead to NCDs. At the same time, some NCDs, such as diabetes, are associated with bacterial infections which call for greater antibiotic therapy, leading to higher drug resistance.