300 Million Children Breathe Highly Toxic Air: UNICEF

Posted: Oct 30 2016, 10:35pm CDT | by , Updated: Oct 30 2016, 10:48pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 

300 Million Children Breath Highly Toxic Air: UNICEF
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1 in 7 kids worldwide are living in places where air pollution exceeds the limit set by WHO

Almost 1 in 7 children worldwide are breathing in highly toxic air and most of those children, about 220 million, belong to South Asia, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) latest report reveals.

Satellite imagery shows that about 300 million children or one in seven world’s children are living in areas where air quality level exceeds World Health Organization’s global guidelines. Precisely, the outdoor air pollution of these places is at least six times more toxic than what is considered safe by WHO and this is putting children’s health at tremendous risk. Globally, 600,000 children die each year as a result of air pollution. 

According to the report, air pollution has now become a leading killer in kids under age five as it is contributing to more deaths yearly than malaria and HIV/AIDS combined.

“Air pollution is a major contributing factor in the deaths of around 600,000 children under five every year – and it threatens the lives and futures of millions more every day,” said Anthony Lake, the executive director of UNICEF. 

“Pollutants don’t only harm children’s developing lungs – they can actually cross the blood-brain barrier and permanently damage their developing brains – and, thus, their futures. No society can afford to ignore air pollution.”

The deaths in kids are associated with both indoor and outdoor air pollution. Outdoor pollution is mostly caused by factors like vehicle emissions, heavy use of fossil fuels, dust and burning of waste, while indoor pollution, which stem from use of coal and wood for cooking and heating, is also fueling in diseases in children. Most of the children affected by poor air quality belong to low income, rural areas. 

The UNICEF report has been released just a week ahead of UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, Morocco, also known as COP22, where almost 200 government representatives are scheduled to meet. UNICEF is calling on world leaders to reduce air pollution in their countries and demanding them to take four urgent steps to protect children from air pollution.

Improve air quality by cutting back on fossil fuel combustion and investing more on energy efficient sources. 

Increase children access to health care

Prevent children from excessive exposure to pollution by keeping factories away from schools and playgrounds

Improve monitoring air pollution

Accelerated implementation of these steps can make air safer to breath.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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