In 2019, air pollution contributed to half a million deaths among infants in their first month of life, according to the State of Global Air Report.
In 2019, over 90% of the world’s population experienced an annual average particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations that exceeded the World Health Organisation (WHO) air quality guidelines.
In that same year, air pollution was responsible for 6.67 million deaths, making it the fourth-highest risk factor behind high blood pressure, tobacco and dietary risks.
When it comes to air pollution, major disparities continue to exist, although air pollution has improved in some high-income countries, dangerous levels continue to persist in low and middle-income countries.
The burden of disease also does not fall evenly across age groups.
In 2019, air pollution contributed to nearly 500,000 deaths among infants in their first month of life.
The report found that there is a peak in pollution-related deaths among babies in the early (0-6 days) and the late (7-27 days), reflecting the influence of PM2.5 on adverse outcomes and lower-respiratory health.
In 2019, around 2.43 million newborns died in the first 0-27 days of life from all causes, of these low birth weight and the health conditions that follow them accounted for 1.78 million deaths.
A growing body of evidence has linked air pollution with increased risks of low birth weight and preterm birth.
Air pollution accounts for 20% of all newborn deaths worldwide, most related to complications of low birth weight and pre-term birth.
Of these neonatal deaths attributable to air pollution, nearly two-thirds are related to household air pollution and babies born in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia face the highest risk.
The report also highlights that there is reason to believe that air pollution can increase susceptibility to Covid-19.
Exposure to air pollution has been shown to affect the body’s immune defence, making an individual more susceptible to respiratory and other infections. In addition, many of the health conditions that have been associated with increased vulnerability to Covid-19 – such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease – are also caused by long-term exposure to air pollution.
The SARS-CoV-1 outbreak in 2002-2004 revealed an association between higher air pollution and higher than expected death rates.
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