Environmental Pollution Kills 1.7 Million Children Under Five Every Year. Voice of America, March 6, 2017.
FILE – People wear protective masks near the Bund during a polluted day in Shanghai, China, Jan. 19, 2016.
Environmental pollution kills more than 1 in 4 children under the age of five every year – that’s 1.7 million children worldwide.
The World Health Organization warns these child deaths will increase dramatically if action is not taken to reduce environmental risks.
WHO examines the impact of harmful environments on children’s health and offers solutions in two new studies, “Inheriting a Sustainable World: Atlas on Children’s Health and the Environment” and a companion report, “Don’t pollute my future! The impact of the environment on children’s health.”
The authors agree that air pollution is the biggest killer and is responsible for 6.5 million premature deaths every year, including nearly 600,000 deaths among children under age five.
Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, notes that young children are most at risk of dying from a polluted environment because of “their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways.”
While most of these child deaths occur in developing countries, Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health told VOA that air pollution was a big leveler between rich and poor countries.
“You can be a very rich child, your parents very rich, but living in a place, in a city, which is very polluted-then there is very little you can do because we all need to breathe.
“So, even if you are rich or poor, you still need to breathe and this is very pernicious. Air pollution is everywhere,” she said.
WHO reports the most common causes of death among children aged one month to five years are diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia.
“These are very much affected by air pollution, water and sanitation, which is inadequate, but also the disease vectors, mosquitos around the house and the community,” said Annette Pruss-Ustun, scientist in WHO’s Public Health and Environmental Department.
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