One in seven children across the world lives in areas with most toxic levels of indoor air pollution, a new UNICEF study has found. In India, which has a huge proportion of these 300 million children, over 1,00,000 child deaths took place associated with indoor air pollution in 2012, according to the study.
“Air pollution is a major contributing factor in the deaths of around 600,000 under-5 children across the world. It threatens the lives and futures of millions more every day. Pollutants don’t only harm children’s developing lungs, they can actually cross the blood-brain barrier and permanently damage their developing brains and thus, their futures. No society can afford to ignore air pollution,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.
The report titled “Clear the Air for Children” uses satellite imagery for the first time to show how many children are exposed to outdoor pollution that exceeds global guidelines set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The satellite pictures have confirmed that around 2 billion children live in areas where outdoor air pollution, caused by vehicle emission, heavy use of fossil fuels, dust and burning of waste, exceeds minimum air quality guidelines set by the WHO.
According to the report, South Asia has the largest number of children living in areas with highest indoor air pollution at 620 million, followed by Africa at 520 million. East Asia and Pacific region has 450 million children living in high air pollution areas.
The levels of outdoor pollution were found to be worst in India and China.
Air pollution, indoor or outdoor, is directly linked to respiratory diseases that account for almost one in 10 under-5 child deaths, making air pollution one of the leading dangers to children’s health. “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,” the report added.