Environmental pollutants cost an estimated 1.7 million lives among children under 5 every year, according to World Health Organization reports.
The report attributed the death of more than 1 in 4 deaths of children under 5 years to unhealthy environments such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, second-hand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and inadequate hygiene.
The report, Inheriting a Sustainable World: Atlas on Children’s Health and the Environment, reveals that a large portion of the most common causes of death among children aged 1 month to 5 years – diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia – are preventable by interventions known to reduce environmental risks.
“A polluted environment is a deadly one – particularly for young children. Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water,” Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General said in a statement.
According to the report, 570 000 children under 5 years die from respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution, and second-hand smoke while 361 000 children under 5 years die due to diarrhoea.
The report also highlighted the increased risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer from exposure to air pollution.
More than 90% of the world’s population is thought to breathe air that violates quality guidelines set by the WHO.