About 300 million children in the world breathe highly toxic air, a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF ) report says. Around one child in seven lives in a place where pollution exceeds six times the international standards. According to the UNICEF report published on October 31st 2016, air pollution contributes largely to infant mortality in developing and under developed nations.
This new study emanates a week before the UN conference on climate COP22, which is to be held in Marrakech, Morocco from November 7 to 18. UNICEF will use this opportunity to launch an appeal to world leaders to act soon for reducing air pollution. “Every year air pollution contributes to the death of around 600 000 children under five years of age and threatens the lives and futures of millions more,” says the Executive director of UNICEF, Anthony Lake.
South Asia has the largest number of children inhaling polluted air (620 million), followed by Africa (520 million) and East Asia and the Pacific (450 million). The authors also studied the pollution inside homes caused by the use of coal and wood for cooking and heating, which affects mostly children from poor families living in rural areas in developing countries.
“The pollutants not only damage children’s lungs but can also cross the protective barrier of the brain and damage irreparably their developing brain, compromising their future,” Anthony Lake said. Based on satellite imagery, the study shows that about two billion children live in countries where air pollution from vehicle emissions, the intensive use of fossil fuels, dust and the waste incineration, exceeds acceptable standards of air quality established by the World health Organization (WHO).
The air pollution in homes is responsible for the frequency of pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, involved in nearly one in ten deaths among children under five. This makes the bad air quality one of the greatest threats to child health, the report says.
The young children are more susceptible than adults to pollution because their lungs, their brains and immune systems are not yet fully formed and their airways are more permeable. To combat this scourge, UNICEF calls on the leaders of the world attending the COP22 to take more emergency measures in their countries to improve the air quality and protect children.