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300 Million Children Breathing Toxic Air - UNICEF Report

The satellite imagery confirms that in total 2 billion children are exposed to outdoor air pollution, caused by factors such as vehicle emissions, heavy use of fossil fuels, dust and burning of waste, exceeds minimum air quality guidelines set by the World Health Organization.
31 Oct 2016 10:59
Around 2 billion children live in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds international limits.

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Approximately 300 million children--one in seven youngsters globally--are living in areas of the world with the most toxic levels of outdoor air pollution, according to a report by the UN Children's Fund UNICEF.

The report named ‘Clear the Air for Children', uses satellite imagery to show for the first time how many children are exposed to outdoor pollution that exceeds global guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO), and where they live across the globe.

The satellite imagery confirms that in total 2 billion children are exposed to outdoor air pollution, caused by factors such as vehicle emissions, heavy use of fossil fuels, dust and burning of waste, exceeds minimum air quality guidelines set by the World Health Organization.

The study also examines the heavy toll of indoor pollution, commonly caused by use of fuels like coal and wood for cooking and heating, which mostly affects children in low-income, rural areas.

Such conditions are directly linked to pneumonia, lung cancer as well as chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma that account for almost one in 10 under-five deaths, making air pollution one of the leading dangers to children's health. More than half of this burden is borne by populations of developing countries.

At least 520 million of the children living in areas that exceed guidelines live in African countries. The East Asia and Pacific region has 450 million children while South Asia has the largest number of children living in these areas, at 620 million.

“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,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.

The findings come a week ahead of the latest UN climate change conference, known as COP22 to be held in Marrakech, Morocco.

Nicholas Rees, a UNICEF Policy Specialist in the area of Climate and Economic Analysis says countries need to meet global air quality guidelines by cutting back on fossil fuel combustion and investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.

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He also observes a need for better monitoring in order to help children, youth, families and communities to reduce their exposure to air pollution, become more informed about its causes, and advocate for changes that make the air safer to breathe.

“We protect our children when we protect the quality of our air. Both are central to our future,” Anthony Lake said. 

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