Around 600,000 children under the age of 5 die every year from air pollution — more than malaria and HIV AIDS combined, according to a report by UNICEF.
Air pollution not just harms children who survive but also unborn babies, stated Executive Director Anthony Lake of UNICEF in the report titled “Clear the Air for Children.”
Over two billion children – more than 25 percent of the world’s population — live in areas where air pollution exceeds the limit set by the World Health Organization. Many of these children belong to low-to-middle income countries in South Asia, East Asia, Africa and the Pacific.
Out of these children, 300 million live in places where the suspended particulate matter in air is six times the international guidelines — they are basically breathing in toxins.
The report links to 2012 statistics that stated 7 million people died due to unclean air. But it also emphasizes the life threatening effects suspended particles in air can have on children. Not only these particles cause damage to their airways, they can also permeate the blood-brain barrier, damaging the brain and resulting in cognitive development problems.
The findings will be used to encourage world leaders attending UN Climate Change Conference in Morocco on November 7 to 18 to come up with concrete plans to reduce air pollution in their countries.
"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,” added Lake.