UNICEF: Nearly 2,000 children die daily from air pollution-related health issues

    WORLD  20 June 2024 - 11:02

    A joint report from the US-based Health Effects Institute and the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), states that air pollution has emerged as the second biggest risk factor for early death worldwide, with nearly 2,000 children dying every day from health problems linked to it.

    The report highlighted the staggering impact of air pollution on global mortality. In 2021, exposure to air pollution contributed to the deaths of 8.1 million people, accounting for roughly 12 per cent of all fatalities. This positions air pollution as a more significant risk factor than tobacco use and poor diet, trailing only high blood pressure, Caliber.Az reports, citing British media 

    Children Among the Most Vulnerable

    The report underscores the vulnerability of young children to air pollution, attributing over 700,000 deaths of children under the age of five to air pollution in 2021. Alarmingly, more than 500,000 of these deaths were linked to indoor cooking with dirty fuels such as coal, wood, or dung, predominantly in regions of Africa and Asia.

    Pallavi Pant, the Health Effects Institute's head of global health, emphasized the solvable nature of these problems, stating, "These are problems we know that we can solve.

    Widespread Impact and Potential Underestimation

    The report found that nearly every person globally breathes unhealthy levels of air pollution daily, with over 90 per cent of related deaths attributed to tiny airborne pollutants known as PM2.5. These particles, measuring 2.5 micrometres or less, are associated with an increased risk of severe health issues such as lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

    Despite the grave statistics, Pant warned that the report might still underestimate the full impact of air pollution. It did not account for potential effects on brain health, neurodegenerative diseases, or the impacts of using solid fuels for heating.

    Ozone Pollution and Climate Change

    Ozone pollution, exacerbated by climate change, was linked to nearly 500,000 deaths in 2021. Pant noted the rise in short, intense episodes of air pollution due to wildfires, dust storms, and extreme heat, which elevate ozone levels.

    "There are very similar solutions for both climate change and air pollution—particularly reducing greenhouse gas emissions," she said, advocating for cleaner cooking methods as well.

    Progress and Initiatives

    Significant progress has been made in some areas, such as China's improvements in reducing the use of dirty solid fuels for cooking. As a result, the rate of young children dying from air pollution-related issues has decreased by more than 50 per cent since 2000.

    In a promising development, the International Energy Agency announced in May that $2.2 billion had been pledged to enhance access to cleaner cooking methods, aiming to mitigate the deadly impacts of traditional indoor cooking practices.

    Global Call to Action

    Using comprehensive data from over 200 countries and territories, the report calls for urgent action to address air pollution's devastating effects on health, particularly among children.

    "Every day, almost 2,000 children under five years die because of health impacts linked to air pollution," said UNICEF's Kitty van der Heijden. "Our inaction is having profound effects on the next generation."

    The report urges a unified global effort to implement solutions that tackle both air pollution and climate change, safeguarding future generations from preventable health crises.

    Caliber.Az

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