According to a new report by the United Nations’ Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one in seven of the world’s children is exposed to pollution levels six or more times higher than international standards set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The report which was released on Monday, a week ahead of the United Nations Climate Change conference in Marrakech, revealed that with this exposure, their growing bodies are most vulnerable to damage.
“Air pollution is a major contributing factor in the deaths of around 600,000 children under five every year. And it threatens the lives and futures of millions more every day,” UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake said.
According to the report, some two billion children live in regions where outdoor air pollution exceeds WHO’s minimum air quality guidelines, with 620 million of those children living in South Asia, followed by 520 million children in Africa, and 450 million children in the East Asia and Pacific region.
UNICEF says young children are particularly susceptible to indoor and outdoor air pollution because their lungs, brains and immune systems are still developing and their respiratory tracts are more permeable.
The agency also called on almost 200 governments, which will meet in Morocco from November 7-18 for talks on global warming, to restrict use of fossil fuels to give twin benefits of improved health and slower climate change.