Air pollution is having 'vast and terrible impact on child health,' and the World Health Organization says the problem is only getting worse.
UNITED NATIONS — Polluted air is now a global “public health crisis” claiming more than 7 million lives annually, according to a new report from the World Health Organization.
WHO said air pollution is having a “vast and terrible impact on child health and survival,” killing more than 600,000 children each year and hampering the development of millions more.
Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus is the WHO director general:
“Some of our children will not reach their full potential because of exposure to air pollution in the womb and in early life; some of our parents will die early because of exposure to it throughout their lives. And in many parts of the world, it’s getting worse.”
That’s because global emissions from cars, manufacturing and electricity production keep increasing too.
Barbara Hoffman, a professor of environmental epidemiology at the University of Dusseldorf, said one fix is obvious, if not easy:
“There are quite a few things you can do. Most importantly, you just have to stop emitting so much.”
Hoffman said air pollution is connected to an increased incidence of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), strokes and heart attacks, and her new work explores how even low levels of pollution can still have damaging health effects.
“The way we are currently protecting our populations from air pollution is not good enough.”
Mark Nieuwenhuijsen of the Barcelona Institute for Global Health said even wealthy cities like Barcelona aren’t immune. One study recently blamed air pollution in Barcelona for 600 premature deaths each year.
Nieuwenhuijsen said city dwellers often suffer from noise and air pollution and lack of green space, but sometimes fail to grasp just how much certain smart policies like replacing streets with walking and bike lanes could improve their lives.
“No one likes a lot of noise around from cars. No one likes the air pollution. But for a lot of people it’s hard to imagine what it’s going to be like without these things around, and that’s what we’ve got to work on more.”