Serious health threat of air pollution

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EVERYDAY, some 93 percent of the children around the world under the age of 15 years, or about 1.8 billion kids, breathe air that is so polluted, putting their health and development at serious risk.

Tragically, many of them die, says the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO estimates that in 2016, around 600,000 children died from acute lower respiratory infections caused by polluted air.

A new report of WHO reveals that when pregnant women are exposed to polluted air, they are more likely to give birth prematurely, and have small, low birth-weight children.

Air pollution also impacts neurodevelopment and cognitive ability and can trigger asthma, and childhood cancer.

Children who have been exposed to high levels of air pollution may be at greater risk for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease later in life.

WHO says polluted air is poisoning millions of children and ruining their lives.

One reason why children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution is that they breathe more rapidly than adults and so absorb more pollutants.

They also live closer to the ground, where some pollutants reach peak concentrations – at a time when their brains and bodies are still developing.

Newborns and young children are also more susceptible to household air pollution in homes that regularly use polluting fuels and technologies for cooking, heating, and lighting.

Air pollution affects neurodevelopment, leading to lower cognitive test outcomes, negatively affecting mental and motor development.

Air pollution is damaging children’s lung function, even at lower levels of exposures.

Globally, 93 percent of the world’s children under 15 years of age are exposed to ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5) levels above WHO air quality guidelines, which include the 630 million of children under five years of age, and 1.8 billion of children under 15 years.

In low- and middle-income countries around the world, 98 percent of all children under five years old are exposed to PM2.5 levels above WHO air quality guidelines.

More than 40 percent of the world’s population – which includes one billion children under 15 – is exposed to high levels of household air pollution from mainly cooking with polluting technologies and fuels.

About 600,000 deaths in children under 15 years of age were attributed to the joint effects of ambient and household air pollution in 2016.

Air pollution is one of the leading threats to child health, accounting for almost one in 10 deaths in children under five years of age.

The recent First Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health initiated by WHO provided the opportunity for world leaders; ministers of health, energy, and environment; mayors; heads of intergovernmental organizations; scientists; and others to commit to act against this serious health threat, which shortens the lives of around 7 million people each year.

To achieve the objective, governments should adopt such measures as reducing the over-dependence on fossil fuels in the global energy mix, investing in improvements in energy efficiency, and facilitating the uptake of various renewable energy sources, like solar, wind, and hydrothermal power sources. (jaypeeyap@ymail.com/PN)

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