300 million children are exhaling dangerously polluted air, UNICEF reports

300 million children are exhaling dangerously polluted air, UNICEF reports

Cyclists ride amidst morning smog in New Delhi, India, Jan. 5, 2016.
Image: AP photo/ manish swarup

Dharmendra rarely steps out into New Delhi’s thick, smoggy air anymore. The 18 -year-old says she feels safer indoors, protected from the toxic air pollution clouding India’s capital city.

“My eyes are irritated, I’m coughing and I find it difficult to breathe, ” Dharmendra, who use merely one name as is common in India, told the Associated Press. “I don’t go out so much nowadays.”

India and its neighboring countries are home to about a third of the world’s 2 billion children who are inhaling toxic air, the United Nations Children’s Fund( UNICEF) said in a new report on Monday.

Vehicle emissions, fossil fuel use, junk burning and dust in crowded cities all blend to make a dangerous chemical soup that can lead to health effects such as lung and brain damage.

But this is a solvable problem, UNICEF said.

PM2. 5 is fine particulate matter with a median diameter of less than 2.5 microns

Image: UNICEF

Governments can reduce their employ of coal-fired power plants and adopt cleaner energy sources such as solar and wind power. They can restriction the burning of trash inside communities and proscribe constructing factories near schools and playgrounds.

“We protect most children when we protect the qualifications of our air, ” Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s executive director, said in a press release. “Both are central to our future.”

UNICEF found that about 300 million children younger than 18 years old are exposed to pollution levels six or more times higher than the safety guidelines set by the World Health Organization. Of that total, 220 million children live in South Asia.

For the study, relevant agencies utilized satellite imagery of outdoor air pollution to create a first-of-its-kind analysis of children’s exposure to sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and other harmful pollutants.

Indian sons sit around a small fire as the morning sunshine is enveloped by a blanket of smog, Nov. 7, 2012.

Image: AP photo/ altaf qadri

Children are more vulnerable to the health risks from air pollution than adults. Kids breathe twice as quickly, so they inhale more air in relation to their body weight. Their brains and immune systems are also still developing, building them more vulnerable to toxic air.

Every year, air pollution contributes to the deaths of around 600,000 children younger than 5 years old, UNICEF said.

“Pollutants dont merely harm children developing lungs they can actually cross the blood-brain obstacle and permanently damage their train brains and, thus, their own future, ” Lake said in the press release.

A woman and child wear masks during a hazy day in Beijing, China, Oct. 14, 2016.

Image: AP photo/ ng han guan

“No society can afford to ignore air pollution, ” he said.

UNICEF released the report a week before a U.N. climate change conference in Marrakesh, Morocco. The children’s bureau said it would call on government leaders at the conference to drastically reduce air pollution.

A road in New Delhi, India is jammed with traffic, March 4, 2014.

Image: Kyodo via AP images

UNICEF outlined four basic ways to clean the air. First, transition power plants and vehicles away from coal, petroleum and natural gas toward renewable energy sources. Many countries, including India, are already moving in this direction.

Second, improve children’s access to healthcare, and third, minimise kids’ exposure by not constructing mills near schools and playgrounds and reducing trash burning within communities. In addition, the report found that better monitoring of local air pollution could help communities identify exposure risks and take steps to reduce them.

The Associated Press contributed reporting .

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