Monday
April 24, 2017

#ecowitness

Monday, March 20, 2017

Exposure to pollution kills millions of children

A woman carrying her child walks along a road in Kathmandu, Nepal.
A woman carrying her child walks along a road in Kathmandu, Nepal.
By Jia Naqvi
by Jia Naqvi
the washington post
@jianaqvi

Exposure to polluted environments is associated with more than one in four deaths among children younger than five, according to two World Health Organisation reports published on Monday.
Worldwide, around 1.7 million children’s deaths are attributable to environmental hazards, such as exposure to contaminated water, indoor and outdoor pollution, and other unsanitary conditions, the reports found.
Weaker immune systems make children’s health more vulnerable to harmful effects of polluted environments, the report says.
Some of the most common causes of death among children, such as malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia, can be prevented by implementing ways known to reduce environmental risks and exposure to these risks, the first report shows. About one quarter of all children’s deaths and diseases in 2012 could have been prevented by reducing environmental risks.
Exposure to polluted environments is also dangerous during pregnancy because it increases the chances of premature birth. Infants and pre-school children exposed to indoor and outdoor pollution are at a higher risk of contracting pneumonia and chronic respiratory diseases. The likelihood of cardiovascular diseases, cancer and stroke also significantly increases with exposure to polluted environments.
The second report quantifies the problem by providing the number of children who died because of exposure to polluted environments.
According to the report, every year:
— 570,000 children under five years die from respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution and second-hand smoke — smoke that is released by burning tobacco products, such as cigarettes.
— 361,000 children under five years die due to diarrhoea, as a result of poor access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene.
— 270,000 children die during their first month of life from conditions that could be prevented through access to clean water, sanitation and clean air.
— 200,000 deaths of children under five years from malaria could be prevented through environmental actions, such as reducing breeding sites of mosquitoes.
— 200,000 children under five years die from unintentional injuries attributable to the environment, such as poisoning.
Exposure to hazardous chemicals through air, food, water and products used in everyday life is also associated with hindered brain development in children. Some chemicals become incorporated into the food chain through fertilisers. Other hazards, such as lead from paint or pollution, can cause developmental delays.
Emerging environmental risks, such as improperly recycled electronic waste, can expose children to toxic chemicals that eventually affect their cognitive abilities and increase the chances of lung damage and cancer. The report found that electronic waste will increase by 19 percent between 2014 and 2018.
What can be done to reduce the danger in children? Improving indoor and outdoor pollution levels and water quality, and protecting pregnant women from tobacco smoke can increase children’s life spans while reducing the likelihood of diseases.
Climate change also contributes to potential environmental risks by, among other things, increasing exposure to pollen and other allergens, which increases the risk of asthma in children. Of the 11 percent to 14 percent of children ages five and older who report asthma symptoms, 44 percent of those are related to exposure to a polluted environment. Tobacco smoke, air pollution and indoor mold worsen asthma symptoms in children.                   w
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