Air pollution is a “major contributing factorâ€? in the deaths of around 600,000 children under five every year, a Unicef study has claimed.
The report, titled ‘Clear the Air for Children,’ was published today (31 October) and revealed that almost one in seven of the world’s children – roughly 300 million – live in areas with the highest levels of outdoor air pollution, six or more times higher than international guidelines.
Unicef used satellite imagery to show how many children are exposed to outdoor pollution exceeding the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. It also looked at the impact of indoor pollution, commonly caused by use of fuels like coal and wood, which mostly affects children in low-income, rural areas.
The study found that together, outdoor and indoor air pollution are directly linked to pneumonia and other respiratory diseases that account for almost one in 10 under-five deaths, making air pollution one of the leading dangers to children’s health.
Unicef executive director Anthony Lake said: “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.
“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.â€?
In the lead-up to the COP22 climate conference in Marrakesh, Morocco next week, Unicef is calling on world leaders to take urgent action to cut air pollution in their countries.
Swedish air purification technology company, Blueair, welcomed the study and called for urgent action to be taken across the world to reduce the impact of air pollution on the lives of children.
Bengt Rittri, founder and chief executive of Blueair, said: “World leaders need to take urgent action to cut air pollution in their countries because it is totally unacceptable that it contributes to not only the deaths of 600,000 children but also threatens the long-term health and futures of millions more,â€? adding that outdoor and indoor air pollution are two sides of the same coin.â€?