Polluted Air Kills 600,000 Kids a Year: WHO Report

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Air pollution produced from cooking and heating fuels, urban transportation and industrial output can impact a child's neurodevelopment, and even lead to asthma, childhood cancer and an increased risk of developing chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, later in life.

Household air pollution from cooking and ambient air pollution caused more than 50 per cent of acute lower respiratory infections in children under five years of age in low- and middle-income countries, it said.

The report noted that air pollution is one of the leading threats to child health, accounting for nearly one in 10 deaths in children under five years of age. "While some of the cities like Patna and Varanasi have recently formulated action plans, there are none in place to issue advisories or mitigate the pollution at the source level instantly as in the case of the Graded Response Action Plan", states the report. The following study took data from around 194 countries dealing with toxic air problems where India topped the list as it witnessed the deaths of at least 1 lakh children who were below the age of five.

Delhi-NCR, Sonbhadra in Uttar Pradesh and Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh and Talcher-Angul in Odisha were the hotspots identified.

Sonbhadra and Singrauli combined have one hotspot.

WHO Global Ambient Air Quality Database (update 2018), released in May, says the air pollution related mortality and disease burden India faces is also the highest in the world.

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The SAFAR said about 28 per cent of pollution by PM2.5 (presence of particles in the air with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres) on Tuesday was caused due to regional factors like stubble burning.

"This is inexcusable. Every child should be able to breathe clean air so they can grow and fulfil their full potential", the official said.

"Polluted air is poisoning millions of children and ruining their lives", Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said in a statement.

"Imagine that our children will have less cognitive development and therefore a lower IQ", said Dr Maria Neira, Director of the Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health at WHO.

"But there are many straight-forward ways to reduce emissions of unsafe pollutants", Neira said. The report also revealed that pregnant women exposed to polluted air are more likely to give birth prematurely, and have small, low birth-weight children. On the other hand, the report stated that the ratio of deaths to the population during a particular period were much higher in the above-mentioned countries in comparison to India.

Parents should try to avoid household air pollution by using less polluting fuels for cooking and heating and not smoking, but to reduce child exposure to ambient pollution they need to lobby politicians to clean up the environment, World Health Organization experts said.

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