Pollution in the environment kills around 1.7 million children a year with says the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday. Deadly environmental factors include filthy air and water, second-hand smoke, and inadequate hygiene. Children who are regularly and severely exposed to such conditions could die from diarrhea, malaria, and pneumonia.
The WHO presented a comprehensive report this week titled “Inheriting a sustainable world: Atlas on children’s health and the environment” . It discusses how the harmful exposure can start in the womb, and then continue in infancy and toddlerhood. Children are more exposed to indoor and outdoor air pollution and second-hand smoke nowadays more than ever.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan says in a statement that pollution can be particularly deadly for young children. “Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water,” he explains. Harmful chemicals through food, water, air and products around children can also put their health at risk, The Huffington Post reports.
Toxic environment increases their childhood risk of pneumonia as well as their lifelong risk of chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma. Air pollution can also give them a lifelong risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer, the report said. Additionally, households without access to safe water and sanitation, or that are filled with smoke from unclean fuels such as coal or dung for cooking can also put children at higher risk of diarrhea and pneumonia, the Reuters reports.
Maria Neira, a WHO expert on public health, urges governments to do more to reduce pollution in their countries. She adds that the public should be aware of these mortality rates, and work to make all places safe for children. She recommends improving air quality by using cleaner fuels, and practicing hygiene which will result in massive health benefits.