Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Threat to Children’s Health from Air Pollution

Clear the air for children - The impact of air pollution on children (100 page pdf, Editor-In-Chief, David Anthony, UNICEF, Oct. 2016)

Also discussed here: A Staggering Number of the World's Children Are Breathing Toxic Air (Mother Jones, Oct. 31, 2016)

Today we review a report that documents the impact of indoor and outdoor pollution on the children of the world who are particularly vulnerable because, for their size, they breathe more air than adults into lungs that are only beginning to develop. 300 million children live in areas with toxic air pollution and 2 billion live in areas where the air pollution exceeds minimum quality standards as set by the World Health Organization. Steps are recommended (that apply to highly developed countries and cities as well as developing countries) to reduce this toll including less pollution indoors by using ventilation, better insulation to reduce fuel burning and cleaner stoves. Outdoors, situate schools and day cares away from traffic related pollution, replace private vehicle transportation with public transit, walking and cycling and monitor air pollution more carefully especially as it impacts child health.

Key Quotes:

Air Pollution:
  • causes miscarriages, early delivery, and low birth weight.
  • contributes to diseases that account for almost 1 in 10 of all deaths of children under the age of five.. making air pollution one of the leading dangers to children’s health.
  • can harm the healthy development of children’s brains.
  • is a drag on economies and societies, already costing as much as 0.3 per cent of global GDP – and rising.”
“around the world today, 300 million children live in areas with extremely toxic levels of air pollution. Approximately 2 billion children live in areas where pollution levels exceed the minimum air quality standards set by the World Health Organization.”

 “Every year, nearly 600,000 children under the age of five die from diseases caused or exacerbated by the effects of indoor and outdoor air pollution. Millions more suffer from respiratory diseases that diminish their resilience and affect their physical and cognitive development.”

“how to protect their children
  • improved indoor ventilation, so smoke does not linger …
  • better insulation, so less heating fuel is burned …
  • cleaner cook stoves…More than 60 per cent of the population in India continue to use solid fuels in household cooking – contributing to over 100,000 child deaths associated with indoor air pollution in 2012.
  • Outside the home, it means improving urban planning so schools and playgrounds are not located in close proximity to sources of toxic pollution.
  • improving waste disposal systems …More than 40 per cent of the world’s municipal garbage is openly burned in over 160 countries. In these countries, the most deprived communities without reliable waste collection services are affected the most.
  • increasing public transportation options to reduce automobile traffic and the harmful fossil fuel emissions it produces.. In the three countries with the highest child populations (India, China and Nigeria), the number of cars is likely to grow considerably in the coming decades, which will be particularly marked in Africa, and substantial too in South Asia.
  • investing in sustainable energy solutions to reduce reliance on pollution-causing sources of energy.
  • monitoring air pollution levels more carefully and including this critical data in our approach to other issues, like child health.,,, will help minimize exposure and will educate the public and policymakers on key health risks. Better monitoring can also inspire greater action by a range of public and private stakeholders.

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