300 million children live with toxic air —UNICEF

THE United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), on Monday, said about 300 million children live in areas with severe air pollution, about six times higher than international limits.

UNICEF noted in a newly-released report  that air pollution, both outdoor and indoor, is a major contributing factor in the deaths of about 600,000 children under five years old every year.

The air pollution also threatens the health, lives and futures of millions more.

“Children are uniquely vulnerable to air pollution, breathing faster than adults on average and taking in more air relative to their body weight,” UNICEF said.

According to the agency, children’s lungs, brains and immune systems are still developing, which make them more susceptible to polluted air that could cause lifetime harm.

“South Asia has 620 million children, the largest number worldwide, living in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds minimum air quality guidelines set by the World Health Organisation,” UNICEF noted.

It added that indoor pollution is commonly caused by use of fuels like coal and wood for cooking and heating, which mostly affects children in low-income and rural areas.

UNICEF said in the report that measures should be taken by all countries to monitor and reduce air pollution, minimise children’s exposure to air pollution and increase their access to healthcare.

The report titled: “Clear the air for children”, was released ahead of the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 22).

The meeting, slated for November 7 to 18 in Morocco’s Marrakesh, is aimed at urging all countries to take actions to cut air pollution soon.