A report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) says that air pollution is responsible for killing nearly 600,000 children every year. Among millions of other children affected with the effects of air pollution it leads to severe symptoms of various conditions such as asthma, respiratory diseases, loss of intelligence, excessive weight gain and ear infections.
According to the experts at the WHO 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. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement, “Polluted air is poisoning millions of children and ruining their lives… This is inexcusable. Every child should be able to breathe clean air so they can grow and fulfil their full potential.” The experts have added that major parts of continents of Asia, Latin America and Africa are one of the worst affected with air pollution.
The WHO report titled “Prescribing Clean Air” has said that around 93 percent of kids around the world are affected by air pollution. This translates into 630 million children under the age of five years and 1.8 billion children under the age of 15 years. The percentage of children exposed to air pollution ranges from 52 percent in high income countries to up to 98 percent in the low and middle-income countries. 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.
WHO Director-General tweeted, “We’re here because we know that #AirPollution is one of the biggest threats to global health, & we need to do something about it – urgently… 9 out of 10 people breathe air that has been polluted by traffic emissions, industry, agriculture and waste incineration” “The most tragic thing about these 7 million deaths is that they are so preventable. There is something we can do. It will require strong political will, swift action and endurance, but I am optimistic that we can, and must, do better,” he added.
Maria Neira, WHO’s head of environmental determinants of health has added that this level of air pollution had led to a rise in still births, preterm deliveries as well as conditions that have long term effect as adults. She said that that policy changes are needed to make long term effects around the world. “Something that is critical as well is this issue of the neuro-development. Imagine that our children will have less cognitive IQ. We are talking about putting at risk a new generation of having a reduced IQ. This is not only new but terribly shocking,” she added.
According to the WHO, this conference “will provide 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.”
The report added that there is an association between air pollution and ear infections such as otitis media among children. Air pollution also leads to conditions such as obesity and resulting insulin resistance in children. This puts them at a greater risk of diabetes later in life, the experts say. Respiratory problems such as childhood asthma, lung function deficiencies, lower respiratory tract infections and even cancers are more likely among children exposed to air pollution, the report says.
India remains one of the worst affected nations with 101,788 Indian children less than five years being killed annually says the WHO report. It adds that one in 10 deaths among children under five years of age is due to air pollution. Death rates due to air pollution are 84.8 per 100,000 in India says the report. The death rates among children aged between 5 and 14 years due to air pollution was 7,234 (2.9 per 100,000).
The report looked at air quality in the atmosphere and households of different countries and looked at deaths among children under five years and those between ages 5 and 14 years. The report adds that it is not just death but the long term effects of air pollution on the growth and development of the children that is more worrying. There are several impacts of air pollution of long term physical as well as cognitive and intellectual development of the children says the report.
http://www.who.int/news-room/detail/29-10-2018-more-than-90-of-the-world%E2%80%99s-children-breathe-toxic-air-every-day or Download Air pollution and child health: prescribing clean air – advance copy (final version still in process) – pdf, 6.33Mb