"This is inexcusable. Every child should be able to breathe clean air so they can grow and fulfil their full potential", said World Health Organization director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus. Large parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America are among the worst affected.
The report which focused on Air pollution and child health raised the alarm noted that the air is so polluted that it puts their health and development at serious risk. According to World Health Organization, 98% of all children under 5 in low- and middle-income countries are exposed to higher levels of PM2.5 than recommended, compared to 52% of children under 5 in high-income countries.
WHO Director-General tweeted, "We're here because we know that #AirPollution is one of the biggest threats to global health, & we need to do something about it - urgently..." The WHO report on deaths due to pollution revealed that the number of girls died due to toxic air was more than the number of boys dying. There is something we can do. "We have to ask what are we doing to our children, and the answer I am afraid is shockingly clear: we are polluting their future, and this is very worrying for all us."Tedros said: "A clean and healthy environment is the single most important precondition for ensuring good health". In a teleconference with journalists, Dr. Maria Neira, director of the WHO public health department, said the priority for the worldwide community is to accelerate the transition to "clean, renewable energy sources".
Air pollution is affecting neuro development, leading to lower cognitive test outcomes, negatively affecting mental and motor development.
As part of its call for action from the worldwide community, WHO is recommending a series of "straightforward" measures to reduce the health risk from ambient fine particulate matter, or PM2.5.
The WHO is working with health professionals not only to help their patients, but also to give them the skills and evidence to advocate for health in policy decisions such as moving away from fossil-fuel-powered energy and transport.
The report added that there is an association between air pollution and ear infections such as otitis media among children.
Over three days starting Tuesday top health and air pollution experts from across the world will gather in Geneva to highlight the gravity of the issue and brainstorm on ways to tackle sources of air pollution and shed light on health impacts. According to the report, nearly 98% of the children below the age of five in India were exposed to PM2.5 levels.
As many as 33 million hospital visits for asthma attacks worldwide every year could be linked to exposure to air pollution, a new NASA-funded global study has suggested. "In fact, one-third of the deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease stem from polluted air". Estimates state that up to 11,377 children below five years and 874.8 children between 5 to 14 years die due to pollution-related ailments.