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ALERT: Around 600,000 Children Worldwide Die Annually Due to Air Pollution

Oct 31, 2016 04:57 AM EDT

A new report from the United Nations Children's Fund revealed that around 300 million children in the world are exposed to highly toxic air pollution, with about 600,000 of them dying every year due to illnesses and disease caused by or exacerbated by air pollution.

The report, titled "Clear the Air for Children," showed that the vast majority of children who are exposed to high levels of air pollution live in South Asia, where pollution is at least six times higher than the safe levels imposed by the World Health Organization.

Furthermore, about two billion children in the world are living in places with higher than normal levels of air pollution. These include about 620 million living in South Asia, 520 million in Africa and 450 million in East Asia and Pacific. These children live in countries with low-income urban areas. Most of the pollutants come from vehicle emissions, heavy use of fossil fuels, dust and burning of agricultural and commercial waste, according to CNN.

Air pollution has been linked to myriad of health consequences in adults. However, children are at most risk for air pollution because their lungs are still developing. Among the pollutants, air particles known as PM2.5 is considered to be the most dangerous due to their small size, about a tiny fraction of the width of human air.

According to the report from New York Times, PM2.5 can easily enter the bloodstream through the lungs, exacerbating cardiac disease and increasing the risk of stroke and heart failure. Additionally, Pm2.5, like other air pollutants, could cause severe respiratory problems, such as asthma and pneumonia.

Based on the WHO studies in 2012 and 2015, UNICEF researchers estimate about seven million deaths associated with air pollution, with 600,000 of those deaths occurring in children below five years of age. WHO studies also claim that one in ten deaths of children under five is linked to air pollution.

With these findings, UNICEF is urging world leaders attending UN Climate Change Conference in Morocco on November 7 to 18 to come up with concrete plans to reduce the levels of air pollution in their respective countries.

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