Air pollution, both internal and external, leads each year to the death of about 600,000 children under the age of 15 due to acute respiratory tract infections, the World Health Organization warned today.
Air pollution is “the new smoke,” the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Antan Gebrreyes stresses in the organization’s isotope from today to Thursday in Geneva the first World Conference on “Air Pollution and health. ”
On that occasion, the WHO published a report according to which about 93% of children under the age of 15 in the world (1.8 billion children) inhale each day so infected air that poses a serious risk to health and their development.
According to the WHO, about 91% of the world’s inhabitants inhale polluted air, resulting in about 7 million deaths each year.
“This public health crisis is the subject of increased attention, but a crucial aspect is often overlooked: how air pollution affects children in particular,” the WHO said in his report.
In 2016, air pollution inside and outside of the home caused 543,000 children under the age of five to die and 52,000 children aged 5 to 15 due to acute respiratory infections, according to the report. The report also explains that pregnant women exposed to polluted air are more likely to give birth to babies who are premature and underweight.
Air pollution also affects the neurological development and cognitive abilities of children. In addition, children exposed to elevated levels of air pollution may be at greater risk of developing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases later in life.
One of the reasons why children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution is that they breathe faster than adults and therefore absorb more pollutants, the WHO said. Besides, children are closer to the ground where some pollutants reach maximum concentrations, while their brain and body are still under development.
Newborns and young children are also more vulnerable to air pollution in households that regularly use technologies and polluting fuels to cook, heat and illuminate. In a teleconference with journalists, Dr. Maria Neira, director of the WHO public health department, said the priority for the international community is to accelerate the transition to “clean, renewable energy sources”.