Jakarta, CNBC Indonesia – The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) states that one in seven children in the world is exposed to the most toxic air pollution.
A 2016 UNICEF report found that 300 million children live in areas with the most toxic levels of outdoor air pollution. The air quality is claimed to be six times higher than the guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Air pollution is a major factor in the deaths of around 600,000 children under the age of five each year. In addition, this (air pollution) threatens the lives and future of millions of children every day,” said the 6th UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake, quoted from the official UNICEF website, Tuesday (15/8/2023).
“The pollutants not only damage children’s developing lungs, they also penetrate them barrier blood-brain and permanently damage their developing brains,” Lake continued.
Based on satellite imagery monitoring, around two billion children live in areas prone to air pollution. Generally, air pollution in these areas is caused by vehicle emissions, heavy use of fossil fuels, dust, and burning of waste.
Most of the children living in polluted areas are from South Asia, namely 620 million children, followed by Africa with 520 million children. Meanwhile, there are 450 million children in the East Asia and Pacific region living in polluted areas.
Apart from being outdoors, this UNICEF study also examines the impact of indoor pollution which is usually caused by the use of fuels, such as coal and wood for cooking and heating. This is thought to affect children in rural areas with low incomes.
UNICEF says indoor and outdoor air pollution directly causes pneumonia and other respiratory diseases that account for nearly one in ten deaths of children under five.
“Children are more vulnerable to air pollution than adults because their lungs, brain and immune system are still developing. In addition, their respiratory tract is also more permeable (particles can penetrate),” UNICEF wrote.
According to UNICEF, children are more at risk of experiencing health problems due to pollution because they breathe faster than adults so they inhale more air.
Therefore, UNICEF recommends that all parties minimize children’s exposure to pollution, such as not choosing school locations or play areas near factories, keeping cooking stoves cleaner, and managing waste properly.
“A cleaner cookstove can improve air quality in the home. Reducing overall air pollution can help reduce children’s exposure,” said UNICEF.
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