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‘This is Inexcusable:’ 93 Percent of the World’s Children Breathe Polluted Air

30 October 2018

Children are extremely vulnerable to air pollution, says a report released during the first global conference on air pollution and health in Geneva. It also comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) reports on the numbers of child deaths and illnesses linked to poor air quality.

When pregnant women are exposed to polluted air, they are more likely to have premature births and have babies that are born underweight.

Last week, the CPCB recommended that people avoid heavy workouts, try to get themselves less exposed to toxic air, and cut down on the use of private cars at least for the next 10 days.

Air pollution produced from cooking and heating fuels, urban transportation and industrial output can impact a child's neurodevelopment, and even lead to asthma, childhood cancer and an increased risk of developing chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, later in life.

More than 40 per cent of world's population, which includes one billion children under 15, is exposed to high levels of household air pollution from mainly cooking with polluting technologies and fuels, the report said.

"Imagine that our children will have less cognitive development and therefore a lower IQ", said Dr Maria Neira, Director of the Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health at WHO.

According to the report, children breathe at twice the rate that adults do and thus inhale larger amounts of air pollutants.

The Copenhagen-based agency premature deaths across Europe in 2015 down to air pollution mostly resulted from tiny airborne particles known as PM2.5.

Delhi is now the second most polluted major city in the world, according to air quality tracker AirVisual, second only to Lahore in Pakistan.

"Air pollution is an invisible killer and we need to step up our efforts to address the causes", said the head of the agency, Hans Bruyninckx.

The report also found that 76,000 early deaths were linked to nitrogen dioxide and some 16,400 to ground-level ozone in European Union countries in the same year. In comparison, in high-income countries, 52% of children under 5 are exposed to levels above World Health Organization air quality guidelines.

The authorities have tried to reduce crop burning by imposing fines and providing subsidies for alternative machinery, but for many farmers there is still no affordable alternative. It said that the new clean air act is needed to diminish air concentration levels to as low and as soon as possible.

The report warns that exposure to air pollution is an "overlooked health emergency for children around the world".

While some of the cities like Patna and Varanasi have recently formulated action plans, there are none in place to issue advisories or mitigate the pollution at the source level instantly as in the case of the Graded Response Action Plan to combat air pollution.

‘This is Inexcusable:’ 93 Percent of the World’s Children Breathe Polluted Air