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1.7 million children die each year due to pollution

According to two new reports by the World Health Organization, 1.7 million children under the age of 5 die each year as a result of pollution. Indoor and outdoor pollution, unsafe water, and second-hand smoke collectively contribute to more than 1 in 4 deaths of young children.

The first report, titled Inheriting a Sustainable World: Atlas on Children’s Health and the Environment, says that many of the most common causes of death in children under 5, including diarrhoea, pneumonia, and malaria, are environmentally triggered but preventable. Interventionists who provide access to clean drinking water and safe cooking tools can significantly reduce these numbers.

According to the second report, titled Don’t pollute my future: The impact of the environment on children’s health, 570,000 children under the age of 5 die from respiratory infections that are directly caused by indoor and outdoor air pollution. An additional 361,000 children under 5 die from diarrhoea caused by polluted water. Another 270,000 children die within a month after birth from other conditions caused by dirty water.

“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,” said WHO director-general Margaret Chan.

The reports also state that exposure to polluted environments often begins in the womb, which increases the risk of premature birth.

“When infants and pre-schoolers are exposed to indoor and outdoor air pollution and second-hand smoke, they have an increased risk of pneumonia in childhood, and a lifelong increased risk of chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma,” the report said. “Exposure to air pollution may also increase their lifelong risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer.”

“A polluted environment results in a heavy toll on the health of our children. Investing in the removal of environmental risks to health, such as improving water quality or using cleaner fuels, will result in massive health benefits,” added Maria Neira, WHO director of the Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health.

By Rory Arnold, Staff Writer

Source: World Health Organization

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