Environment

Air pollution killing half a million kids each year, says World Health Organization

Air pollution killing half a m...
Each year, 570,000 children under five die from respiratory infections caused by indoor and outdoor pollution, according to WHO
Each year, 570,000 children under five die from respiratory infections caused by indoor and outdoor pollution, according to WHO
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Each year, 570,000 children under five die from respiratory infections caused by indoor and outdoor pollution, according to WHO
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Each year, 570,000 children under five die from respiratory infections caused by indoor and outdoor pollution, according to WHO

Pollution is bad news for everybody, but children under the age of five with their young organs, immune systems and brains are particularly vulnerable at that stage of development. Two new reports from the World Health Organization have offered new insights into how serious a risk it poses, finding the the combination of things like the lack of sanitation, unsafe water and air pollution claim 1.7 million young lives every year.

One of the reports, titled Don't pollute my future! The impact of the environment on children's health, takes a look at how a child's environment can impact their health, with more than one in four deaths of those under the age of five attributable to unhealthy environments. Most startling is the finding that each year, 570,000 children under five die from respiratory infections caused by indoor and outdoor pollution, along with second-hand smoke.

WHO notes that exposure to air pollution and second-hand smoke at such a young age not only increases the risk of pneumonia during childhood, but boosts the lifelong risk of chronic respiratory disease like asthma, along with heart disease, stroke and cancer.

But the report considers the environment from all angles. It also revealed that 361,000 children under five die from diarrhoea each year resulting from unclean water and a lack of sanitation and hygiene, 200,000 thousand die from malaria that could be prevented by better sealing drinking water or reducing breeding sites, and 200,000 die from preventable injuries caused by the environment, such as poisoning, falling and drowning.

The other report, titled Inheriting a Sustainable World: Atlas on Children's Health and the Environment, suggests that the most common causes of death among kids in this age group, which are diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia, could be prevented by improving accessibility to clean water and using cleaner cooking fuels.

It points to a few areas where efforts can be made to improve the outlook in spite of growing electronic waste like mobile phones that are improperly recycled and rising carbon emissions that boosts pollen growth and in turn, asthma rates in children. These include households using clean fuel for cooking and heating, schools providing safe sanitation and hygiene, urban planners creating more green spaces and cycling paths, the transport sector reducing emissions, and the agriculture sector limiting the use of pesticides and child labor.

"A polluted environment results in a heavy toll on the health of our children," says Dr. Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. "Investing in the removal of environmental risks to health, such as improving water quality or using cleaner fuels, will result in massive health benefits."

Under the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, an initiative made up of 17 individual objectives aimed at ending poverty and protecting the planet, countries are making a concerted effort to reduce environmental risk for children. More specifically, this involves setting targets that reduce preventable deaths of newborns and children under five by 2030, in addition to improving water safety, sanitation and hygiene.

Source: WHO

7 comments
LarryWolf
It's probably the leading cause of the ever increasing Alzhemier's in America but proving it is the devil's work.
ljaques
Removing enviro risks is a laudable goal, but the WHO and EPA both concentrate on the tiniest factors which are most toxic rather than the easily remedied LCDs which produce the most problems. If you want better indoor air quality, give the country electricity and electric heat and cooking sources. If you want to remove malaria, start using DDT again. (Rachel was dead wrong and it has been proven.) Want better water and more food? Install solar-pumped wells. If we all stopped fighting each other, we'd have plenty of money to get all these problems taken care of. At home, if we defunded politics in the USA, that same amount of money could build brand new housing for every single homeless person, clean up our water, feed our hungry (the 3rd world isn't the only one with starving people), finish cleaning our air, and make a start on cleaning up the Superfund sites. Perhaps we should doublecheck priorities there, too, now that a more sane leader is in charge. As far as Alzheimers, cancer, autism, etc. go, let's eliminate GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, and live-virus immunizations from the mix and go from there.
Adrian Pineda
More evidence of the need for many, many more nuclear power plants. Pollution free generation of electricity, coupled with the cost effective production of hydrogen fuel for cars which exhaust water and the ability to desalinate seawater on a massive scale. I'll sit back and see the deniers explaining why it is okay for 1.7 million children to needlessly die every year.
Mark Markarian
How many people live who wouldn't live due to our modern life?
S Michael
What BS... All these so called health organizations are looking for is more funding to keep them well fed and happy. I don't think these statistics are for the U.S. but for third world countries where they have political and corruption problems that keep them in the state they are in. Air pollution has decreased over the years, not increased. As far as Alzheimer's goes. Not sure if there might be some other modern pollutant that might play a role in the increase of this disease.
EcoLogical
Adrian Pineda: we have a huge nuclear power plant up in the sky, all we have to do is convert it to electricity (solar panels) and store it (batteries, pumped-hydro, H2 fuels...). Enough solar radiation hits our planet every hour to power ALL HUMAN ACTIVITIES for an entire year.
anon
Half a million kids. I wonder what caused our technological growth to happen to violently out of balance. Perhaps it was kept suppressed for 1000+ years, to hide something? -- Credit Trump a little here.