More than one in four deaths of children under the age of five are attributed to an unhealthy environment. Air pollution, second-hand smoke, and unsafe water are just some of the environmental risks that have claimed the lives of over 600,000 children every year.
When it comes to whether a parent wants their child to breath clean or polluted air, the right answer is clear. Air pollution not only hurts the health of children around the world damages our communities.
Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) held its first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health in Geneva, marking a major milestone for recognizing the health impacts of air pollution. The conference focused on enacting a World Health Assembly mandate to combat air pollution and showing that affordable solutions exist across the transport, energy, agriculture, waste, and housing sectors.
As Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General stated at the summit, “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 fulfill their full potential.”
Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution because they breathe more rapidly than adults, thereby absorbing more pollutants. Newborns and young children are also more likely to be subjected to household pollutants such as fuels and technologies used for cleaning, cooking, and lighting due to being home more often.
But the health impacts aren’t just short-term; they continue into adulthood. Pneumonia, for example, is correlated to air pollution. The cognitive damage from air pollution also lowers a child’s ability to excel in school, which affects their professional growth as adults.
Although a great deal of damage has already been done, it is important to remember it’s not too late to take action. We all have the ability to reduce air pollution, promote healthier lives, and combat climate change – all at the same time.
BreatheLife is a Climate and Clean Air Coalition initiative led by the WHO and UN Environment that mobilizes communities to reduce the impact of air pollution on our health and climate. Action starts on an individual level.
Better waste management is another way we can increase air quality in our households. From implementing a composting plan to investing in reusable and recycled projects, we can all take steps to better manage our consumption. When it comes to cooking and cleaning, it’s essential to be informed. Check efficiency rating for home heating systems and cookstoves to ensure your household is as energy efficient as possible.
These are just some of the small actions you can take to reduce to contribution to air pollution. To find more suggestion on how to move mindfully, conserve energy and advocate for change, check out BreathLife’s Action page.