2 billion children, are breathing in toxic air according to a new report from UNICEF entitled Clear the air for children .
The mounting death toll
Outdoor air pollution has gone up by 8% since 2008 and current projections from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development show that the mortality rate for under fives could increase two fold by 2050. It is low income families who are the worst hit.
300 million children are breathing in air at least six times more polluted than international guidelines set by the World Health Organization.
Those worst affected
UNICEF’s report uses satellite images to show the areas with the most children affected. South Asia, Africa, and the East Asia and Pacific region have the most children at risk.
A young girl in Mongolia told reporters how the thick smog there affects her daily life: “When I go to school in the morning, it is usually very smoggy. Sometimes when I cross the road, I can’t tell if the light is green or red. The smog makes my throat burn.”
An urban and rural issue
Children growing up in Urban areas are worst hit by outdoor pollution but many, families in rural areas who use coal and wood for heating and cooking are badly affected by indoor pollution.
It is estimated that 600,000 children under the age of five die as a result of toxic air every year. Together, outdoor and indoor air pollution are directly linked to pneumonia and other respiratory diseases that account for the deaths of around one in 10 under-five year-olds.
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said: “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. No society can afford to ignore air pollution.”
The new findings come just days before the COP22 summit in Marrakesh, Morocco where pressure will be put on world leaders to take immediate action on curbing pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels.