Report says air pollution is having a devastating impact on children worldwide, storing up a public health time bomb
Poisonous air is having a devastating impact on billions of children around the world, damaging their intelligence and leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths, according to a report from the World Health Organization.
The study found that more than 90% of the world’s young people – 1.8 billion children – are breathing toxic air, storing up a public health time bomb for the next generation.
The WHO said medical experts in almost every field of children’s health are uncovering new evidence of the scale of the crisis in both rich and poor countries – from low birth weight to poor neurodevelopment, asthma to heart disease.
Dr Tedros Adhanom, WHO director general, said: “Polluted air is poisoning millions of children and ruining their lives. This is inexcusable – every child should be able to breathe clean air so they can grow and fulfil their potential.”
The findings coincide with the start of the first global conference on air pollution and health in Geneva, including a high-level action day at which nations and cities are expected to make new commitments to cut air pollution.
The WHO study found that children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution because pollutants are often more concentrated nearer to ground level. It added that their developing organs and nervous system are also more susceptible to long-term damage than those of adults.
“Air pollution is stunting our children’s brains, affecting their health in more ways than we suspected,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO director of public health and the environment.