SCO ISSUE ARTICLE - Air Pollution and Children's Health

SCO ISSUE ARTICLE - Air Pollution and Children's Health


Air pollution is the biggest environmental risk to health. It may not always be visible, but it can be deadly. One air pollutant known to be associated with the most detrimental health outcomes is ultra-fine particulate matter (or particle pollution) less than 2.5 microns in diameter, or about 40 times smaller than that of human hair, referred to as ‘PM2.5'. At high concentrations, PM2.5 can be seen as smoke or haze, but even at concentrations too low to be visible, it can cause serious health effects.

Air pollution is an unseen threat to children's health. It is the silent killer. Each year, air pollution causes 570,000 deaths in children under five years old. This includes indoor, outdoor, and second-hand smoke. It has an impact on vulnerable populations; pregnant women, toddlers, children, and parents who live close to the source of exposure. Pneumonia is the leading cause of death in children under five years of age. Air pollution is a major risk factor. It is the fourth-largest threat to human health, behind high blood pressure, dietary risks, and smoking. Children are more vulnerable to be impacted than adults; they breathe two times faster than adults, their respiratory tract is more permeable, their immune system is weaker, and their brain is still developing. Evidence suggests that air pollution could impair the physical and cognitive development of children. Air pollutants, mainly caused by fumes, can more easily enter and irritate the lungs of children, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream and accumulate in the major organs that cause and exacerbate the risk of life-threatening illness.

Things that we could do to reduce air pollution:

  1. Provide universal access to clean, affordable fuels and technologies for cooking, heating, and lighting.
  2. Build safe and affordable public transport systems and pedestrian-and-cycle-friendly networks.
  3. Reduce agricultural waste incineration, forest fires, and certain agro-forestry activities.
  4. Make greener and more compact cities with energy-efficient buildings.
  5. Improve domestic, industry, and municipal waste management.
  6. Invest in energy-efficient power generation;
  7. Ensure smoke free environments for women and children.
  8. Improve child health by providing children with access to good quality healthcare to improve their health and protect them from the negative effects of air pollution.
  9. Provide prenatal and postnatal healthcare for mothers and children.
  10. Improve policy and monitoring of the air quality systematically and making sure that children's rights and their special vulnerabilities are taken into account in discussions and negotiations on environmental agreements.

We believe that the right to health is for everyone, and by polluting air, we also take and neglect the rights of people, specifically children, the population who do not have their own voice to use to their advantage, who are more vulnerable in aspect of physical health, mental health, and many other aspects than adults. What will your children breathe? Let's do something! Save the children, save the future!


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