Sunday, 20 January, 2019

Children under 15 at serious risk from polluted air

Using firewood to cook causes pollution and effects young children adversely. Credit Danish Siddiqui  Reuters Using firewood to cook causes pollution and effects young children adversely. Credit Danish Siddiqui Reuters
Theresa Hayes | 01 November, 2018, 05:35

Around 93 percent of the world's children under the age of 15 years - 1.8 billion children - breathe heavily polluted air every day, according to a major new report from the World Health Organization.

About 1,09,022 children below 15 years die in India every year due to acute lower respiratory tract infections, the WHO said in its report - Air Pollution and Child Health: Prescribing Clean Air.

The organisation said that it had also convened the first Global Conference on Air Pollution in Geneva from October 30 to November 1. Haines, who is also a professor of environmental change and public health at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Message, added that growing air pollution is adversely affecting the country's health care, with an increase in pollution-related ailments like heart attack, cancer and other respiratory diseases.

Each passing month sees new studies showing further harms of toxic air, with recent revelations including a "huge reduction" in intelligence, millions of diabetes cases and the first direct evidence of pollution particles in mothers' placentas.The cost of the lost lives and ill health caused is also a colossal economic burden: $5tn a year, according to a World Bank report.

"Polluted air is poisoning millions of children and ruining their lives", said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

In India, nearly all children under the age of five breathe polluted air and women especially in rural areas are subject to high levels of household air pollution.

If the family is burning fuels like wood and kerosene for cooking, heating and lighting, they will be exposed to higher levels of pollution than children who spend more time outside the home.

WHO's study, which examined the health toll on children breathing health-hazardous levels of both outdoor and household air pollution, focused on risky particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5).

That includes using less polluting fuels for cooking and not smoking.

While air pollution is a global problem, it is particularly profound in low and middle income countries, the report stated. Sleeping in rooms exposed to sound of night-time traffic makes children hyperactive, sleepless and raises their blood pressure.Regulations that lower pollution and reduce exposure to air toxins can counter some ill effects.

"What the governments were saying in the region was: 'Don't tell us we have a problem, we know there is a problem, how can we deal with it and what will it take to do it?'", she said.

Air pollution kills 7 million people each year including 600,000 children.

We are empowering health professionals to explain the risks of air pollution to their patients and how best to reduce those risks.

The report was launched as WHO prepared to hold its first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health, set to begin Tuesday. These findings demonstrate that much more needs to be done to combat air pollution worldwide. That includes reducing the global dependence on fossil fuels, using more renewable energy, and improving energy efficiency. It adds that one in 10 deaths among children under five years of age is due to air pollution.

"The way we are now protecting our populations from air pollution is not good enough".