Wednesday , October 20 2021

More than 90% of children around the world breathe a very polluted air: a "time bomb"


Every day, 93% of children in the world under 15 are breathing contaminated air that risks their health, reports a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO).

"Contaminated air is poisoning millions of children and ruining their lives," says Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General. "This is inexcusable. All children should be able to breathe clean air so that they can grow and fulfill their full potential."

In a world increasingly populated, increasingly developed, we are using more and more resources, and this is charging an increasing number in the quality of our atmosphere: on the one hand, we have the increasing temperatures fueled by our burning of fuels fossils and on the other hand, we have the associated atmospheric pollution.

Now, a new study by WHO shows a new problem: most children in the world are breathing contaminated air. This is not a new discovery, but the scale at which it is happening is shocking.

"Atmospheric pollution is stalking the brains of our children, affecting their health more than we suspect," Dr said. Maria Neira, WHO director of public health and the environment.

The report estimates that only in 2016, 600,000 children died from acute respiratory infections caused by contaminated air and, in general, contaminated air represents a third of deaths due to stroke, lung cancer and heart disease. Children are more vulnerable to that.

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In general, 93% of children in the world are exposed to one of the most harmful contaminants: PM2.5. PM2.5 (also called Fine Particle Matter) is defined as a contaminant with a diameter of less than 2.5 μm (being 1 μm 0.001 mm). Because it is so small, PM2.5 is particularly dangerous, since it can infiltrate enough within someone's lungs and even in the bloodstream.

According to EPA, numerous scientific studies have linked exposure to particle pollution to several problems, including:

  • premature death in people with heart or lung disease;
  • non-lethal heart attacks;
  • irregular heartbeat;
  • aggravated asthma;
  • decreased pulmonary function;
  • It increases the respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the respiratory tract, cough or difficulty breathing.

Although the vast majority of children breathe air above the pollution threshold recommended by WHO, there is a large division based on the country's income: 98% of children under 5 years of less developed or developing countries are breathing air Insurance, compared to only 52% of children in the developed world.

But this is not a restricted problem in some parts of the world: it is something that everybody needs to solve together.

The WHO convenes all countries in the world to meet global air quality guidelines to improve the health and safety of children. First of all, we need a better understanding and monitoring of pollution. Low cost sensors and other new technologies can expand the supervision and forecast of air quality to areas currently attended. New protocols and standards are needed to guide the effective use and interpretation of data produced by low cost sensors in citizen science and other applications, explains WHO.

But at the end of the day, we need drastic changes in society, especially when it comes to reducing dependence on fossil fuels. Things like moving schools and playgrounds in addition to sources of air pollution can make a temporary difference, but for a sustainable change, this will not cut it. The organization writes:

"To achieve this, governments should take measures such as reducing the excessive dependence of fossil fuels in the global energy mix, investing in improvements in energy efficiency and facilitating the absorption of renewable energy sources. Better waste management can reduce the amount of waste They burn within the communities and thus reduce "atmospheric contamination of the community." The exclusive use of clean and fuel technologies for cooking, heating and home lighting activities can dramatically improve the quality of air in homes and the surrounding community. "

Atmospheric pollution affects neurodevelopment, which leads to lower cognitive test results, negatively affecting mental and motor development. Even low levels of exposure can cause pulmonary damage, with potentially devastating consequences.

There are two main types of air pollution: air pollution (or basically external pollution), which generally comes from the combustion of fuel in automobiles, power stations, industry or burns and domestic air pollution (or indoor contamination), generated by the combustion of a home of fuels such as coal, wood or kerosene, which use open stoves or basic kitchens in poorly ventilated spaces. Both contribute to health problems and both can be addressed by ecological measures.

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