300 mil­lion chil­dren breathe heav­ily toxic air

The Sun (Malaysia) - - NEWS WITHOUT BORDERS -

WASH­ING­TON: Some 300 mil­lion chil­dren live with out­door air so pol­luted it can cause se­ri­ous phys­i­cal dam­age, in­clud­ing harm­ing their de­vel­op­ing brains, the United Na­tions said in a study re­leased yes­ter­day.

Nearly one child in seven around the globe breathes out­door air that is at least six times dirt­ier than in­ter­na­tional guide­lines, ac­cord­ing to the study by the UN Chil­dren’s Fund, which called air pol­lu­tion a lead­ing fac­tor in child mor­tal­ity.

Unicef pub­lished the study a week be­fore the an­nual UN climate-change talks, with the up­com­ing round to be hosted by Morocco from Nov 7 to Nov 18.

The agency, which pro­motes the rights and well-be­ing of chil­dren, is push­ing for world lead­ers to take ur­gent ac­tion to re­duce air pol­lu­tion in their coun­tries.

“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.

“Pol­lu­tants don’t only harm chil­dren’s de­vel­op­ing lungs. They can ac­tu­ally cross the blood-brain bar­rier and per­ma­nently dam­age their de­vel­op­ing brains and, thus, their fu­tures. No so­ci­ety can af­ford to ig­nore air pol­lu­tion,” Lake said.

Unicef points to satel­lite im­agery which it says con­firms that about two bil­lion chil­dren live in ar­eas where out­door air pol­lu­tion ex­ceeds min­i­mum air-qual­ity guide­lines set by the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

The air is poi­soned by ve­hi­cle emis­sions, fos­sil fu­els, dust, burn­ing waste and other air­borne pol­lu­tants, it said.

South Asia has the largest num­ber of chil­dren liv­ing in such ar­eas at about 620 mil­lion, fol­lowed by Africa with 520 mil­lion and the East Asia and Pa­cific re­gion with 450 mil­lion. – AFP

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