GENEVA – China will play host to the United Nations’ annual World Environment Day on June 5. More than 100 countries will participate to address this year’s theme of “Air Pollution” with a special emphasis on how air pollution affects the health of children.
Air pollutio𝗇 is a significant, health and life-threatening problem for people all over the world. According to the UN Environment,
“Approximately 7,000,000 people worldwide die prematurely each year from air pollution, with about 4,000,000 of these deaths occurring in Asia-Pacific.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) claims that 93% of all the children in the world live in areas where air pollutio𝗇 levels exceed global standards.
The WHO calculates that one-quarter of all children who die before reaching five years of age do so because they have been, directly or indirectly, exposed to harmful environmental situations. More than 543,000 children died from respiratory tract infections in 2016 alone.
The American Lung Association has published some startling facts about the impact of air pollutio𝗇 on infant children.
- Unborn children of pregnant women who have been exposed to particulate matter air pollution frequently delivery pre-term.
- Children who are raised in polluted areas often suffer from stifled lung growth that can leave them with reduced lung capacity for their entire life.
- Children living in relatively pollution-free regions have markedly fewer cases of chronic cough, bronchitis, common cold, and conjunctivitis.
Children are especially susceptible to the deleterious effects of air pollutio𝗇 because their lungs are not fully developed. Children have only about 20% of the lung capacity of a normal adult at birth and do not reach full capacity until their teen years. As a result, they breathe more often than adults. Given that children’s immune systems are still developing, their lungs are highly susceptible to the health risks posed by polluted air.
Children whose lung capacity has been hindered carry that problem into adulthood. They have to cope with reduced lung capacity for the rest of their adult lives.
The WHO published a document entitled Air Pollution and Child Health on May 30, 2019, that found that “the vast majority of child deaths from exposure to particulate matter air pollution occur in Low-to-Middle-Income countries (LMICs).”
While 52% of children under the age of five in High-Income countries are exposed to ambient 𝖺𝗂𝗋 𝗉𝗈𝗅𝗅𝗎𝗍𝗂𝗈𝗇, the report claims that the percentage of children exposed in LMIC countries in South and East Asia regions is as high as 99%. The risk factor for children being raised in the Middle East and African nations is 100%.
The death rate for children due to pollution in African LMICs is 184.1 per 100,000. In South and East Asia, the rate is 75.0. By comparison, the rate in HICs in the Americas and Europe is 0.3 children per 100,000.
In addition to infant mortality rates, the WHO report also lists impaired neurodevelopment, obesity, asthma, and childhood cancers among the common dangers of air pollution for children.
To read more news on Environmental Issues on Missions Box, go here.
- World Health Organization, Air Pollution and Child Health
- American Lung Association, Children and Air Pollution
- Medium Corporation, What are the effects of air pollution on children’s health?
- World Environment Day, How dirty air harms children
- YouTube, UN Environment, Unequal Exposure