More than a quarter of all deaths among children under the age of five are due to environmental pollution, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) in two reports published on Monday.
Every year, environmental risks – indoor and outdoor air pollution, passive smoking, unsafe water, lack of sanitation and inadequate hygiene – lead to the death of 1.7 million children under five Years in the world, the WHO said in a statement.
Of these, 570,000 children die from respiratory infections (eg, pneumonia) due to indoor and outdoor air pollution and passive smoking, and another 361,000 die from diarrheal diseases due to insufficient access to Drinking water and sanitation and hygiene.
“A polluted environment is deadly, especially for young children,” said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, quoted in the statement.
“Young children are particularly vulnerable to air and water pollution because their organs and immune systems are developing and their bodies, especially their airways, are small,” she added .
According to WHO, a large proportion of the diseases that are the leading causes of death for children aged 1 to 5 years – diarrheal diseases, malaria and pneumonia – could be prevented through interventions that are known to reduce Environmental hazards such as access to clean drinking water and the use of clean fuels for meal preparation “.
For example, WHO explains that malaria deaths could be prevented by reducing the number of mosquito breeding sites or by covering potable water reservoirs.
New dangers also threaten the health of children.
For example, new environmental hazards, such as electronic and electrical waste – such as used mobile phones – that are not properly recycled, expose children to toxins that can lead to decreased cognitive skills, attention deficit, Lung damage or cancer, experts said.
According to WHO, the amount of electronic and electrical waste will have increased by 19% between 2014 and 2018, reaching 50 million tons.
For its part, climate change increases temperatures and carbon dioxide levels, which promotes pollen production, coupled with an increase in asthma rates in children.
By 2016, WHO had already indicated that nearly a quarter of the world’s deaths, in all populations, stem from an environmental cause in the broad sense, ranging from pollution to road accidents.