300 million children live in areas with extreme air pollution, data reveals
Global study reveals huge number of children breathing toxic fumes more than six times over safe limits, while billions are affected by air pollution that exceeds guidelines
Children are far more vulnerable to air pollution, which leads to 600,000 child deaths a year globally, according to Unicef. Photograph: Bazuki Muhammad/REUTERS
Monday 31 October 2016 01.41 GMT
Three hundred million of the world’s children live in areas with extreme air pollution, where toxic fumes are more than six times international guidelines, according to new research by Unicef.
The study, using satellite data, is the fist to make a global estimate of exposure and indicates that almost 90% of the world’s children – two billion – live in places where outdoor air pollution exceeds World Health Organisation (WHO) limits.
Unicef warned the levels of global air pollution contributed to 600,000 child deaths a year – more than are caused by malaria and HIV/Aids combined. Children are far more vulnerable to air pollution, Unicef warned, pointing to enduring damage to health and the development of children’s brain and urging nations attending a global climate summit next month to cut fossil fuel burning rapidly.
“The magnitude of the danger air pollution poses is enormous,” said Anthony Lake, Unicef’s executive director. “No society can afford to ignore air pollution. We protect our children when we protect the quality of our air. Both are central to our future.”
Air pollution is the world’s single biggest environmental health risk, according to the WHO, and is getting worse, with levels of toxic air rising 8% in the last five years. Over three million people a year die as a result of outdoor air pollution – six every minute on average – and this is set to double by 2050 as fast growing cities expand.