Three hundred million of the world’s children live in areas where the levels of toxic air pollution are more than six times the international guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO), according to new research by UNICEF. Moreover, almost 90 per cent of the world’s children – two billion – live in places where outdoor air pollution exceeds the WHO recommended levels.
“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,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “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. No society can afford to ignore air pollution.”
Children are more susceptible than adults to air pollution as their lungs, brains and immune systems are still developing and their respiratory tracts are more permeable. The most disadvantaged, who already tend to have poorer health and inadequate access to health services, are the most vulnerable to the illnesses caused by polluted air.
Source: UNICEF press release, 31 October 2016 (www.unicef.org)