WHO DG: Polluted Air Kills 600, 000 Children Globally

Ebony Scott
November 1, 2018

It accounts for nearly 1 in 10 deaths in children under the age of five.

Air pollution kills 7 million people each year including 600,000 children.

The PM2.5 refers to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, which is about 3% the diameter of a human hair.

"In comparison, in high-income countries, 52% of children under 5 are exposed to levels above World Health Organization air quality guidelines", the study says.

In 2016, air pollution inside and outside of the home caused 543,000 children under the age of five to die and 52,000 children aged 5 to 15 due to acute respiratory infections, according to the report. "But there are many straight-forward ways to reduce emissions of unsafe pollutants", said Maria Neira, Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health at WHO.

"What the governments were saying in the region was: 'Don't tell us we have a problem, we know there is a problem, how can we deal with it and what will it take to do it?'", she said.

"A country can not say that they want to develop economically, they have to pollute - that is not true. Our lung function and our respiratory systems are being altered during our development".

The household pollution produced by the use of cooking oil, heating and lighting are severely injurious for newborn children.

Another report by Greenpeace presented a grim picture of India's pollution level.

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"The lack of visible smog is no indication that the air is healthy. By cleaning up the air we breathe, we can prevent or at least reduce some of the greatest health risks". The report was released Monday this week (29th of October 2018) right before the first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health organized by the WHO in Geneva. The report said that 59 per cent of Indian households still use cooking fuel.

Asia could reap massive benefits in health, environment, agriculture and economic growth if governments implement 25 policies such as banning the burning of household waste and cutting industrial emissions, according to a United Nations report.

According to the experts at the World Health Organization parents can do little to prevent outside air pollution but can prevent household air pollution by using less polluting fuels at home for cooking and heating and by not smoking.

Mark Watts, executive director of the C40 Cities group, which represents cities around the world working to tackle the climate crisis and air pollution, said the report was an urgent call to action.

Over 90% of the world's population suffers toxic air and research is increasingly revealing the profound impacts on the health of people, especially children.

While air pollution is a global problem, it is particularly profound in low and middle income countries, it said. "Most importantly, you just have to stop emitting so much".

While some of the cities like Patna and Varanasi have recently formulated action plans, there are none in place to issue advisories or mitigate the pollution at the source level instantly as in the case of the Graded Response Action Plan to combat air pollution.

Air pollution can also harm ecosystems by damaging soil, forests, lakes and rivers as well as reducing crop yields.

Other reports by GizPress

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