More than 90% of the world's children breathe toxic air every day

Using firewood to cook causes pollution and effects young children adversely. Credit Danish Siddiqui  Reuters

The report, reviewed by Asharq Al-Awsat, showed that the polluted air causes seven million early deaths yearly, and was the only cause behind the death of 600,000 children in 2016, for suffering from acute respiratory inflammation, which contributed to over $5 trillion losses in the global economy.

A new report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has found that global air pollution has a vast and devastating impact on children's health.

"Polluted air is poisoning millions of children and ruining their lives", WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. They are also shorter in stature and, because some pollutants are most heavily concentrated near the ground, children are more fully exposed to these pollutants.

Although air pollution as a public health crisis has been receiving more attention in recent years, the consequences for children are often overlooked. Europe must "redouble its efforts to reduce emissions caused by transport, energy and agriculture and invest in making them cleaner and more sustainable", he added.

Air pollution has now emerged as one of the leading threats to child health, accounting for nearly 1 in 10 deaths in children below five. It said burning fuel such as wood or paraffin for heating, cooking and light in poorer countries was having a drastic impact on children's health and called on governments to promote the clean alternatives as a matter of urgency.

World Health Organization will hold its global air pollution conference on Tuesday, October 30. "Implementing these air quality measures is not only good for health and the environment, it can also boost innovation, job creation and economic growth".

"Air Pollution is stunting our children's brains, affecting their health in more ways than we suspected". It was also found to increase the risk of cancer and other chronic illnesses later in life like cardiovascular disease.

It however advised parents to avoid household air pollution by using less polluting fuels for cooking and heating, as well as not smoking in the house.

The air quality in Delhi and NCR went further down on Monday, with experts cautioning people to abstain from any form of brisk physical activity even in indoor gymnasiums.

Raising an alarm, the WHO said that exposure to air pollution is an overlooked health emergency for children around the world. In a teleconference with journalists, Dr. Maria Neira, director of the WHO public health department, said the priority for the global community is to accelerate the transition to "clean, renewable energy sources".

"World Health Organization is also supporting low emission power generation, cleaner, safer industrial technologies and better municipal waste management" to reduce community air pollution, Dr Neira added. The report said taxis and autorickshaws must use the cleanest fuel and technology.

"As AAP and HAP share numerous same types of combustion sources, minimizing children's exposure to both forms of pollution, especially during the most sensitive developmental stages of early life, should take precedence over establishing near-certainty about the full extent of the risk and the mechanisms involved".

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