Around two billion children, meaning more than 25 percent of the entire population, are currently living in countries where air pollution is way above the yearly limit established by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Approximately 300 million kids live in places where the level of ultra-fine particular matter, or PM, is more than six times higher than the international regulations, so the air in these areas is highly toxic.
Unicef has released Monday a comprehensive report about the negative impact of air pollution on all children across the world. According to the agency, air pollution-related diseases caused the death of 600,000 kids under five-years-old in 2012.
Worse, more than 500,000 children are killed by pneumonia every year, whereas more than fifty percent of all cases are caused by air pollution. Other findings reveal that one in eight deaths worldwide, adults included, occurred due to air pollution, which means that unclean air has led to the death of seven million people in 2012.
Air Pollution Impact
Experts underline that children are highly vulnerable to PM, including before birth. More precisely, PM 2.5 exposure has a negative impact on pregnant women leading to severe consequences such as preterm baby delivery, lower than average birth weight, and miscarriage.
The reason why children are more likely to develop serious health conditions due to unclean air lies in the fact that they breathe twice as fast as an adult, meaning that they inhale more harmful emission than adults.
It is also worth mentioning that children have small airways and more permeable respiratory tracts, so they are more likely to suffer blockages or develop infections, as their immune system hasn’t fully developed.
Recent research suggests that PM exposure has a massive impact on brain tissue leading to cognitive development impairment and other long-term consequences on mental health. According to the report, around 88 percent of deaths were related to outdoor pollution, whereas 99 percent of them were linked to indoor pollution, all of them in middle and low- income countries.
Also, Asia has the highest mortality rate. Anthony Lake, executive director of Unicef, stresses that every society must do its best to address this issue because it will reduce future health costs, while every country will have a healthy next generation which will live in a safe and cleaner environment free from air pollution.
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