Polluted Air, the 'New Tobacco,' Kills 600K Kids a Year

WHO estimates that 93% of children worldwide breathe dangerous air
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 29, 2018 11:42 AM CDT
A woman and a child wearing masks walk in Beijing in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

(Newser) – The World Health Organization is out with some new numbers on air pollution, and the numbers are hard to fathom:

  • In 2016, 600,000 children were estimated to have died from acute lower respiratory infections caused by polluted air, reports CNN.
  • About 1.8 billion children worldwide—that would be 93%—breathe air so toxic that it puts their health, their physical development, and their intelligence at risk, reports the Guardian.
  • In poorer nations, a staggering 98% of children under the age of 5 are exposed to PM2.5, one of the most harmful pollutants, in levels that exceed the WHO's safety guidelines.
  • The pollution isn't always of the outdoor variety: The burning of wood or paraffin for heating, cooking, and light also takes a toll, especially in poorer nations.
  • Pregnant women who breathe such dirty air are more prone to deliver premature and underweight children.
  • Air pollution is the "new tobacco" and is responsible for 7 million premature deaths annually, writes WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a Guardian op-ed. The report is out on the eve of the group's Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health.
More on the risks that air pollution poses on pregnant women. (Read more air pollution stories.)

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