A recent study from the World Health Organization found that more than 90 percent of the world’s children are breathing toxic air, which is creating a public health time bomb…
The World Health Organization is warning that more than 1.8 billion children are breathing toxic air, and the dangerous impact it is having on their overall health could have devastating consequences. The study was published leading up to the organization’s first-ever Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health and it looked at the impact of polluted air on children. It found that in 2016 alone, more than 600 thousand children died from acute lower respiratory infections caused by polluted air.
Maria Neira, Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, World Health Organization, said, “Every day, now the moment we are talking almost 93% of the children worldwide breathing toxic air. And this has terrible health consequences. Not only the fact that 600,000 of them die every year because of lower respiratory infections.”
The organization also found that polluted air is having a devastating impact on pregnant mothers and their babies, by causing premature births and impacting brain development and cognitive abilities.
“If a pregnant woman is exposed to air pollution, then the risk of having a pre-term birth is very high,” Neira said. “In addition to that, the baby will be on a very small weight. If you are exposed to air pollution pre-natal, or post-natal, then the risk of having problems with the development of your brain is very important. We know that children will have problem with their neural and cognitive development.”
The study found that even at lower levels, polluted air is damaging children’s lung function. And because children breathe more rapidly than adults, they are absorbing more of the polluted air around them, and it is putting them at a greater risk for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease later in life.
The devastating health impacts of polluted air are also being highlighted in Asia after a report from the United Nations found that every year more than 4 million people die in the Asia Pacific region from health problems related to air pollution.
As a result, the UN is attempting to implement 25 air pollution measure that they claim will save millions of lives every year. Dr. Johan Kuylenstierna, Policy Director of the Stockholm Environment Institute said, “If these 25 measures are all implemented, then we can have a big reduction in the impact of small particles on the human health, leading to between 700,000 or 800,000 fewer deaths, an increase in the number of people experiencing clean air in Asia from about a third of a billion to a billion people.”
The World Health Organization concluded that air pollution is one of the leading threats to child health, accounting for almost 1 in 10 deaths in children under five years of age. This worldwide problem has left many wondering if we can stop this public health time bomb before it is too late.