Some 300 million children globally live in areas with toxic levels of air pollution that are more than six times higher than guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO), according to the new report by UNICEF.
Using satellite data, the report found that around 2 billion children are exposed to outdoor air pollution— caused by dust, vehicle emissions and heavy use of fossil fuels— that exceeds WHO’s minimum air quality guidelines.
It also found that both indoor and outdoor air pollution is one of the leading dangers to young people’s health, killing 600,000 annually, and has been directly linked to pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.
“Air pollution is a major contributing factor in the deaths of around 600,000 children under five every year – and it threatens the lives and futures of millions more every day” UNICEF’s Executive Director Anthony Lake said in a statement. “Pollutants don’t only harm children’s developing lungs – they can actually cross the blood-brain barrier and permanently damage their developing brains – and, thus, their futures. No society can afford to ignore air pollution.”