“About 300 million children in the world breathe highly toxic air, the United Nations Children’s Fund said in a report on Monday that used satellite imagery to illustrate the magnitude of the problem. The vast majority of these children, about 220 million, live in South Asia, in places where air pollution is at least six times the level that the World Health Organization considers safe, Unicef said. The agency said the children faced serious health risks as a result.
“Children are uniquely vulnerable because their lungs are still developing,” said Nicholas Rees, the author of the report.“Early exposure to toxic air has lifelong consequences for them,” he said.
Among the most dangerous pollutants are air particles known as PM2.5, which are a small fraction of the width of a human hair. They can be released from fossil fuel combustion and industry, and include natural sources like dust. The ultrafine particles enter the bloodstream through the lungs, worsening cardiac disease and increasing the risk of stroke and heart failure, in addition to causing severe respiratory problems, like asthma and pneumonia.
Early studies also suggest a possible link between pollution and children’s cognitive function, the Unicef report noted. It also cited numerous studies connecting chronic exposure to high pollution with an increased risk of miscarriage and early labor in pregnant women, and low birth weight.
Globally, about seven million deaths are linked to air pollution, 600,000 of them children under 5, the Unicef report said, citing World Health Organization studies in 2012 and 2015.
Air pollution is linked to one in 10 deaths of children under 5, the W.H.O. has reported.
But in its report, Unicef also argued that the effects of toxic air go well beyond early mortality, in particular for children, on whom the lifelong effects are only now being understood.
Beyond the children living in the most toxic air, about two billion children in the world, constituting the vast majority, live in places where air pollution exceeds the level that the W.H.O. considers unhealthy, the report said.
And Unicef warned that children’s health could be increasingly at risk in the ensuing decades as the most populous countries rapidly industrialize, a factor that historically has been accompanied by rising rates of air pollution…” The New York Times. Read the full article on delhiair.org.