A report released Monday from the World Health Organization (WHO) states that one in every four deaths of children under the age of 5 is caused by exposure to pollution.
Environmental risks, says the report, such as indoor and outdoor pollution, unsafe water, poor sanitation, second-hand smoke, and poor hygiene results in the deaths of 1.7 million children worldwide.
The first report released by WHO reveals that the most common causes of death in children between the ages of 1 month to 5 years are exposure to unsafe water and lack of clean cooking fuels.
Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General for WHO said:
“A polluted environment is a deadly one – particularly for young children. Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water.”
A companion report released by the WHO provides a comprehensive overview of how these deaths occur, and includes statistics for their causes.
- 570,000 children under the age of 5 die from respiratory infections such as pneumonia, which are attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution, and secondhand smoke.
- 361,000 children under the age of 5 die due to diarrhea as a result of poor access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene.
- 270,000 children die during their first month of life from conditions, including prematurity, which could be prevented through access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene, as well as reduced exposure to air pollution.
- 200,000 children under the age of 5 die from unintentional injuries attributable to the environment, such as poisoning, falls, and drowning.
Dr. Maria Neira, WHO’s director for its Department of Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health stated:
“Investing in the removal of environmental risks to health, such as improving water quality or using cleaner fuels, will result in massive health benefits.”
Examples provided by the WHO include removing electrical and electronics waste, which is forecast to increase to 50 million metric tonnes by 2018. This waste, such as discarded cell phones and other devices, emit toxins that can lead to reduced intelligence and attention deficits, as well as lung damage and cancer.
As reported in The Guardian, the WHO estimates that of the 11-14% of children over 5 affected by asthma, half are caused or exacerbated by air pollution. The report also suggests that pollen growth stimulated by the warmer temperatures caused by climate change is making asthma in children worse.
A recent study into the effects of air pollution on pregnant women has shown that prolonged exposure was associated with nearly 1 in 5 premature births, according to The Washington Post. Environment International published the study, which revealed that exposure to fine particulate matter increased the chances of premature births in both developing nations and in developed countries, including the United States.
In May 2016, the WHO released a report that outdoor air pollution had risen globally by 8 percent since 2011. The report compiled data from over 3,000 cities across the world.
In October 2016, UNICEF released a report stating that almost 90 percent of the world’s children, or about 2 billion, live in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds WHO safety guidelines. UNICEF claims that air pollution causes more child deaths per year than malaria and HIV/Aids combined — up to 600,000 per year.
The video below highlights some of the most important revelations provided by the new WHO report.