One in 4 Deaths of Kids Blamed on Pollution

WHO report highlights risks to young children
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 6, 2017 11:42 AM CST
One in 4 Deaths of Kids Blamed on Pollution
A foreign tourist and a child wearing protection masks walk through Tiananmen Square in Beijing in January.   (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Environmental pollution is responsible for the deaths of 1.7 million children under age 5 each year—or one-quarter of all deaths in that age group around the world, Reuters reports. The danger begins in the womb and continues as children are exposed to such factors as dirty air and water, poor sanitation, inadequate hygiene, and second-hand smoke, per a WHO report released Monday. The results can last for life. Some 44% of child asthma cases are believed to be linked to pollutants. Other risks include pneumonia, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. "Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water," says WTO chief Margaret Chan. An estimated 90% of the world's population breathes air that falls short of WHO standards, per CNN.

But it's not only the outside environment that imperils children. Dirty coal fires and animal dung used for heating and cooking also pose risks, as do chemicals tainting food and water. Improper disposal of electronics that can expose children to toxins that can hurt intelligence, per the WHO. An expert on child health epidemiology in London tells CNN the findings point out the need for vaccines, antibiotics, and other measures to counter disease. "It is not just about pollution," says Joy Lawn. Calling on governments to invest in cleaner water and fuels, and safer industrial waste disposal, the WHO also urged smaller-scale planning such as removing housing threats like mold, pests, and lead paint. Good nutrition at schools and more urban green spaces also were recommended. (Air pollution in this country is just as bad as in China.)

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