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Monday July 22, 2024

Air pollution linked to nearly 2,000 child deaths a day: report

Exposure to air pollution contributed to the deaths of 8.1 million people -- around 12 percent of all fatalities

By Agencies
June 20, 2024
An exhaust pipe of a car is pictured on a street. — Reuters/File
An exhaust pipe of a car is pictured on a street. — Reuters/File

Paris: Nearly 2,000 children die every day from health problems linked to air pollution, which is now the second biggest risk factor for early death worldwide, a report said Wednesday.

Exposure to air pollution contributed to the deaths of 8.1 million people -- around 12 percent of all fatalities -- in 2021, according to the report from the US-based Health Effects Institute.

This means air pollution has overtaken tobacco use and poor diet to become the second leading risk factor for early death, behind only high blood pressure, it said.

Little kids are particularly vulnerable to air pollution, and the institute partnered with the UN Children´s Fund UNICEF for its annual State of Global Air report.

Air pollution contributed to the deaths of more than 700,000 children under the age of five, the report found.

More than 500,000 of those deaths were attributed to cooking indoors using dirty fuels such as coal, wood or dung, mostly in Africa and Asia.

“These are problems we know that we can solve,” Pallavi Pant, the Health Effects Institute´s head of global health, told AFP.

Nearly every person in the world breathes unhealthy levels of air pollution every day, the report found.

Over 90 percent of the deaths were linked to tiny airborne pollutants called PM2.5, which measure 2.5 micrometres or less, it said.

Inhaling PM2.5 has been found to increase the risk of lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and a range of other health problems.

The report aimed to link the rates of such diseases with air pollution levels.

But despite the “pretty stark” figures, the report could still be underestimating air pollution´s impact, Pant said.

It did not take into account how air pollution could affect brain health, neurodegenerative diseases or what impact using solid fuels for heating could have, she explained.

The report also found that ozone pollution -- which is expected to get worse as the world warms due to human-driven climate change -- was linked to nearly 500,000 deaths in 2021.