Report: 300 Million Children Are Breathing Toxic Air

By Nathaniel Scharping | October 31, 2016 3:14 pm

(Credit: Coffeemill/Shutterstock)

Some 300 million children are currently exposed to toxic levels of air pollution, according to a report released Monday by UNICEF.

The international children’s organization run by the United Nations conducted a study of air pollution around the world using satellite imagery. In all, they say 2 billion children, nearly all of them, live with unhealthy levels of air pollution, and 300 million of them breathe air containing more than six times the level of toxins recommended by international guidelines, labeled as toxic, according to a news release.

Children At Higher Risk

Children are especially vulnerable to air pollution because they are still developing, they breathe faster and toxins infiltrate their brains more readily, the report says. Being exposed to pollution can result in poor lung function, diseases such as lung cancer and pneumonia, and can put children at risk of developing cognitive disabilities that could affect them their entire lives.

Air pollution is at its worst in cities of the developing world, where high levels of fossil fuel consumption, automobile use and poor regulations all contribute to raise pollution levels far beyond safe levels. South Asia is the top offender, with an estimated 620 million children experiencing unsafe levels of pollution, followed by Africa at 520 million and the East Asia and Pacific region at 450 million, according to the report.

No Escape Inside

The report also distinguishes between outdoor and indoor sources of pollution. Indoor pollution comes mainly from wood- and coal-fired stoves, and is more common in the least developed countries. Outdoor sources include fossil fuel use, dust and waste burning. If steps are not taken to mitigate pollution levels, the report estimates that it could become the leading cause of environment-related child death by 2050. Already, UNICEF says that air pollution is a major factor in the deaths of around 600,000 children annually.

Air pollution could even cause damage that transcends generations. As Discover reported, recent research efforts in California indicate that long-term exposure to some airborne chemicals could trigger epigenetic alterations to our DNA that can be passed down to our children. This could lead to higher rates of asthma in children who haven’t even been exposed to pollution.

UNICEF presented its report in the lead-up to COP22, an annual conference on climate change presented by the United Nations Last year’s meeting saw the adoption of the Paris Agreement to limit carbon emissions to below 2 degrees Celsius. This year, UNICEF hopes to spur action on air pollution, and encourage nations to implement stricter restrictions on polluters, increase children’s access to healthcare, limit their exposure to pollution, and better monitor pollution levels.

“We protect our children when we protect the quality of our air. Both are central to our future,” says UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts
MORE ABOUT: pollution
  • Uncle Al

    UNICEF” Make it 600 million. America for American citizens.

  • OWilson

    “UNICEF says that air pollution is a major factor in the deaths of around 600,000 children annually.”

    Industry will have to do much better than that if it ever wants to catch up with UNICEF sanctioned ABORTION, which is killing some 50,000,000 babies each year.

    • Mike Richardson

      Good grief, you can’t even acknowledge that air pollution is bad for children without interjecting a blasted fundamentalist right-wing view of reproductive issues. Waayyy off topic. And if you are concerned about the unborn, a more on-topic reason for you to be concerned would be the fairly recent discovery of how epigenetic changes caused by parental exposure to toxins is affecting the health of their children, and perhaps generations of children afterwards. I’m just glad there are enough intelligent people in the world to counter this kind of diversion or complacency when it comes to the serious effects of industrial pollution, doing the actual scientific legwork to quantify the severity of the problem. Those are the voices that should be heeded.

      • Uncle Al

        Centrally-mandated charity “given” to to the congenitally inconsequential is international fraud. The singular truth of any civilization is that somebodies are always expendable slaves to their betters. The English have “service.” Have at it.

        Paris is burning as your read this, Muslims against everybody. US Media? Ha. Do not invest in garbage. Garbage is self-propagating.

        • Mike Richardson

          And this tangent has what to do with pollution and children? Are you trying to say they’re expendable? Sometimes, it’s really hard to tell what you’re getting at.

          • Uncle Al

            Official Truth is lies. One need not even consider its content.

          • OWilson

            You have to smile!

            War is the ultimate “pollution”.

            Just imagine the tin pot dictators coming together to promise each other that they’ll try to try to keep the air clean while they bomb the hell out of each others country.

            “Hey, we promise out tanks and planes will only use renewable, none polluting, non fossil, bio fuels”.

          • OWilson

            Just consider its source!

      • OWilson

        No time for you today, Mikey! :)

        • Mike Richardson

          Obviously, you did have time, but no substantive answer, not that that’s anything unusual. Par for the course, really.

          • OWilson

            Read it again.

            I said “for you”! :)

  • OWilson

    Always with the photos of STEAM coming out of cooling towers.

    That’s how adults can tell what they are REALLY up to! :)

    And why Detroit is now a basket case, ready to explode!

    (But, at least, an ‘environmentally friendly” one) :)

    Folks used to be in those factories working hard and improving their lives.

    Now they are on the street, and they ain’t happy!

    That’s why they go hard left, because under communism there is zero unemployment.

    Everybody works for the State and the current cut throat dictator, who manages to kill off his political opposition.

    But under communism, you’ll never “clean up the environment”.

    (See the USSR, Cuba, China, North Korea!)



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