On Monday, the World Health Organization released reports stating that 1.7 million lives among children under 5 are lost due each year to environmental pollutants
Unsafe water, lack of sanitation, poor hygiene practices and indoor and outdoor pollution, as well as injuries are some of the causes. These pollutants are the cause of a quarter of the deaths of children 1 month to 5 years old.
The most common causes of child death are avoidable through interventions available in the communities most affected. The causes are diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia, which can be avoided by using insecticide-treated bed nets, clean cooking fuels and improved access to clean water.
WHO director-general, Dr. Margaret Chan said in a statement: “A polluted environment is a deadly one — particularly for young children. Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water.”
One report states that toddlers exposed to indoor or outdoor air pollution, including secondhand smoke, have a bigger risk of pneumonia during childhood, and an increased risk of chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma, for the rest of their lives.
The risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer is increased due to exposure to air pollution, as per the WHO.
Electronic and electrical waste’s growth has also raised concerns. If these items aren’t disposed of correctly, their waste could potentially expose children to toxins that can harm intelligence and cause attention deficits, lung damage and cancer.
One of the fears highlighted in the report, the increased risk of climate change. Rising temperatures and CO2 levels lead to an increase in asthma. Worldwide, it’s estimated that 44% of asthma cases amid children is related to environmental exposures.
How to reduce the risks of pollution for children:
The report also suggest how to reduce these risks. Such as reducing air pollution, improving access to clean water and sanitation, protecting pregnant women from secondhand smoke and building safer environments in order to reduce accidents and injuries.
Also, the report mentions removing mold, pests and lead paint from housing, ensuring sanitation and good nutrition at schools and using better urban planning to create more green spaces in cities.
John Holloway, professor of allergy and respiratory genetics at the University of Southampton, stressed that this is not a concern solely for developing countries but in also developed countries such as the UK.
However, Holloway stressed that things can be done to help solve the problem. He said that authorities and individuals should act now to protect the health of future generations.