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300 Million Children Suffer From Air Pollution Worldwide

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Close to one in seven children all over the world live in regions with high levels of air pollution, making them the most vulnerable to damage, UNICEF announced on Monday. Most of the areas are in South Asia.

UNICEF urged on the 200 or so governments, all of which will meet in Morocco from November 7-18 for the annual global warming meeting, to limit the use of fossil fuels in order to resolve both climate change and health issues.

UNICEF defines high outdoor pollution as measuring six times as much as set in the World Health Organization’s international guidelines, Reuters reports. The regions were identified using satellite images developed by NASA.

An estimated 300 million children now live in highly polluted areas, 220 million of which are in South Asia.

Anthony Lake, UNICEF executive director, said air pollution was a “major contributing factor in the deaths of around 600,000 children under five every year,” causing health conditions like pneumonia or lung disease. He added,

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.

The WHO estimates that 3.7 million died from outdoor air pollution in 2012, including 127,000 children under the age of five. The most common sources of pollution are factories, power plants, dust, vehicles and burning waste.

Indoor air pollution, on the other hand, which comes from coal or wood cook stoves primarily used in developing countries, killed 4.3 million people in the same year. Out of those, 531,000 were children under five years old.

UNICEF called on the Morocco talks, which will be headed by the United Nations, to take steps that will hasten the shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources like wind or solar power. The change will restrict children’s exposure to pollution, give them better access to public health care, and improve air quality monitoring.


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