Air pollution: Over 600,000 children die yearly

Delhi Air Pollution Rising Vehicular Emission a Major Contributor in Deteriorating Air Quality in NCR

Its report said pollution levels were slowly improving in European Union countries but remained far higher than European Union and World Health Organization (WHO) standards.

In addition, the report revealed that more than 40 percent of the world's population is exposed to high levels of household air pollution from mostly cooking with toxic fuels and polluting technologies. Such policies would not only help people with asthma and other respiratory diseases, but it would help everyone breathe a little easier, they said. The report is being launched on the eve of WHO's first ever Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health.

Air pollution has now emerged as one of the leading threats to child health, accounting for nearly 1 in 10 deaths in children below five. On Monday, an overall air quality index of 348 was recorded, which falls in the very poor category, according to data of the Central Pollution Control Board.

"Although air pollution is a global problem, the burden of disease attributable to particulate matter in the air is heaviest in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), particularly in the African, South-East Asia, Eastern Mediterranean and Western Pacific regions", the report said. New Delhi's air quality has been hovering between poor and very poor categories since the past week though it has not yet formally reached the severe levels.

Children are especially vulnerable to the ill-effects of air pollution because they breathe more rapidly than adults, absorbing more pollutants, the World Health Organization release explains.

She said, "Air pollution is affecting all of us but children are the most vulnerable of all. But there are many straightforward ways to reduce emissions of unsafe pollutants", says Dr. Maria Neira, Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health at WHO.

It said about 98 per cent of children under the age of five years in low- and middle-income countries, which include nations like India, were exposed to air pollution caused by finer particulate matters in 2016.

SAFAR data also showed that less stubble burning has taken place in the last two days as compared to last Thursday and Friday when highest pollution stubble burning took place since October 11.

A WHO assessment released earlier this year found that 14 out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India.

"It attains more importance in geographies like India where more than a million people lose their lives to the health emergency", Sunil Dahiya, an air pollution campaigner with Greenpeace India, said.

The report also found that 76,000 early deaths were linked to nitrogen dioxide and some 16,400 to ground-level ozone in European Union countries in the same year.

World wide, the WHO estimated that 7 million premature deaths worldwide were linked to air pollution, of which almost 6,00,000 were children.

Expected outcomes include a strong commitment to decreasing air pollution by implementing policies and reforms, and making civic infrastructure such that children's exposure to polluted air is minimised.

Unlike the protective ozone layer in the stratosphere, ground-level ozone is harmful, formed when emissions like NO2 react with other pollutants and "cook" in heat or sunlight. Residents celebrate by lighting lamps and bursting firecrackers, which have caused a sharp spike in pollution levels in previous years.

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