Study, using satellite data has revealed that Three hundred million of the world’s children live in areas with extreme air pollution, where toxic fumes are more than six times international guidelines, according to new research by UNICEF. The study is the first to make a global estimate of exposure and indicates that almost 90% of the world’s children – 2 billion – live in places where outdoor air pollution exceeds World Health Organization (WHO) limits.
UNICEF has warned that the levels of global air pollution contributed to 600,000 child deaths a year – more than are caused by malaria and HIV/Aids combined. Children are far more vulnerable to air pollution, UNICEF warned, pointing to enduring damage to health and the development of children’s brain and urging nations attending a global climate summit next month to cut fossil fuel burning rapidly. UNICEF’s Executive Director, Anthony Lake has also said that the magnitude of the danger air pollution poses is enormous, “No society can afford to ignore air pollution. We protect our children when we protect the quality of our air. Both are central to our future.” Children are especially at risk, the UNICEF report has said that because they breathe more rapidly than adults and the cell layer in their lungs is more permeable to pollutant particles. The tiny particles can also cross the blood-brain barrier, which is less resistant in children, permanently harming cognitive development and their future prospects. Even the unborn are affected, as the particles inhaled by pregnant women can cross the placental barrier, injuring fetuses. Prof Jos Lelieveld, at the Max Planck Institute in Mainz, Germany, also said that the report was excellent: “Air pollution is typically a problem in developing countries, where infants have little resistance due to poor nutrition and where health care is insufficient.”

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