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300m Children Exposed To Toxic Air – UNICEF

By NAHIMAT ADEKOGA

At least 300 million children live with polluted outdoor air which causes serious physical damage, including harming their developing brains.

This was disclosed in a recent study released by the United Nations on Monday.

Nearly one child in seven around the globe breathes outdoor air that is at least six times dirtier than international guidelines, according to the study by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which called air pollution a leading factor in child mortality.

According to the study, about two billion children live in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds minimum air-quality guidelines set by the World Health Organization.

The air is poisoned by vehicle emissions, fossil fuels, dust, burning waste and other airborne pollutants, it said.

South Asia has the largest number of children living in such areas at about 620 million, followed by Africa with 520 million and the East Asia and Pacific region with 450 million.

The study also looked at indoor air pollution, typically caused by burning coal and wood for cooking and heating.

Together, outdoor and indoor air pollution are directly linked to pneumonia and other respiratory diseases that account for almost one death in 10 in children under the age of five, making air pollution a leading danger to children’s health, UNICEF said.

Executive Director of the agency, Anthony Lake, said that air pollution is a major contributing factor in the deaths of around 600,000 children under five every year, and it threatens the lives and futures of millions more every day.

Lake explained that pollutants don’t only harm children’s developing lungs. They can actually cross the blood-brain barrier and permanently damage their developing brains and, thus, their futures.

The agency, which promotes the rights and well-being of children, is pushing for world leaders to take urgent action to reduce air pollution in their countries.

UNICEF published the study a week before the annual UN climate-change talks, with the upcoming round to be hosted by Morocco on November 7-18.

UNICEF is therefore calling for more robust measures to reduce pollution, increase children’s access to healthcare and to monitor and minimize children’s exposure to polluted air.

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