Air Pollution Linked to 2,000 Child Deaths per Day Globally


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The State of Global Air Report 2024 has revealed that an average of around 2,000 children, aged 5 and younger, are dying every day from poor air quality.

The study, by the Health Effects Institute (HEI) in partnership with UNICEF, linked 8.1 million deaths of people of all ages in 2021 to air pollution. The report determined that in 2021, around 709,000 deaths of children under 5 years could be connected to air pollution, making poor air quality responsible for around 15% of global deaths of children 5 years and younger.

“We hope our State of Global Air report provides both the information and the inspiration for change,” HEI President Dr. Elena Craft said in a press release. “Air pollution has enormous implications for health. We know that improving air quality and global public health is practical and achievable.”

As The Guardian reported, air pollution is now the second biggest cause of death globally, behind high blood pressure. Air pollution has overtaken smoking and other tobacco use. For children, poor air quality is the No. 2 killer behind malnutrition.

“Despite progress in maternal and child health, every day almost 2,000 children under 5 years die because of health impacts linked to air pollution,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Kitty van der Heijden. “Our inaction is having profound effects on the next generation, with lifelong health and wellbeing impacts. The global urgency is undeniable. It is imperative governments and businesses consider these estimates and locally available data and use it to inform meaningful, child-focused action to reduce air pollution and protect children’s health.”

According to the report, fine particulate matter pollutants, or PM2.5, was responsible for more than 90% of air pollution-related global deaths in 2021. Fine particulates can enter the lungs and blood stream, increasing risk of lung cancer, heart disease and stroke. Sources of PM2.5 include fossil fuel plants, industrial facilities, transportation, wildfires and even fuel combustion at home for activities like cooking and heating.

This year’s State of Global Air Report highlighted the deadly impacts of long-term exposure to ground-level ozone, which was linked to around 489,518 global deaths in 2021. In the U.S., ground-level ozone exposure contributed to around 14,000 chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), more than the ozone-related COPD deaths in other high-income countries.

For the first time in the report’s history, the 2024 version includes data on nitrogen dioxide exposure. As HEI explained, nitrogen dioxide is a common pollutant from vehicle exhaust. It can also be emitted by fossil fuel and industrial plants. Nitrogen dioxide can contribute to asthma and other respiratory conditions, the report noted, and can also contribute to worsening ozone and fine particulate pollution.

Despite these findings, the report highlighted some good news, including that the disease burden from air pollution exposure in children has declined by around 35% from 2010 to 2021 as household air pollution has declined. Further, the air pollution-related death rate in children under 5 years has declined 53% since 2000, in part thanks to clean energy developments.

But more actions are needed to reduce air pollution and improve health outcomes for people around the world.

“This new report offers a stark reminder of the significant impacts air pollution has on human health, with far too much of the burden borne by young children, older populations, and low- and middle-income countries,” Dr. Pallavi Pant, HEI’s Head of Global Health at HEI, said in a statement. “This points sharply at an opportunity for cities and countries to consider air quality and air pollution as high-risk factors when developing health policies and other noncommunicable disease prevention and control programs.”

This article originally appeared on EcoWatch and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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This article originally appeared on EcoWatch and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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