Global | 300 million children breathe toxic air, UNICEF reports

A new UNICEF report reveals that almost one in seven of the world’s children – or 300 million in total – live in areas with the most toxic levels of outdoor air pollution. These pollution levels are six or more times higher than what is allowed by international guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The findings come a week ahead of the COP 22 in Marrakesh, Morocco, where UNICEF is calling on world leaders to take urgent action to cut air pollution in their countries.

“Air pollution is a major contributing factor in the deaths of around 600,000 children under five every year – and it threatens the lives and futures of millions more every day,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “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.”

UNICEF is asking world leaders attending COP 22 to take four urgent steps in their countries to protect children from air pollution:

  1. Reduce pollution: All countries should work to meet WHO global air quality guidelines to enhance the safety and well being of children. To achieve this, governments should adopt such measures as cutting back on fossil fuel combustion and investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.
  2. Increase children’s access to healthcare: Investing in children’s overall healthcare – including immunization campaigns and improving knowledge, community management and numbers seeking care for pneumonia (a leading killer of children under five) – will improve their resilience to air pollution and their ability to recover from diseases and conditions linked to it.
  3. Minimize children’s exposure: Sources of pollution such as factories should not be located within the vicinity of schools and playgrounds. Better waste management can reduce the amount of waste that is burned within communities. Cleaner cook stoves can help improve air quality within homes. Reducing air pollution overall can help lower children’s exposure.
  4. Monitor air pollution: Better monitoring has been proven to help children, youth, families and communities to reduce their exposure to air pollution, become more informed about its causes, and advocate for changes that make the air safer to breathe.

For more information, read here. Click on the cover below to access the report.


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