When a disaster hits, those most likely to die are the most fragile: The very old and the very young. We know pollution is an enormous risk for the elderly, but no data had really been gathered on how it affected children. The answers, it turns out, are grim.
According to the World Health Organization, one in four deaths among children under five, or 1.7 million to be more exact, are caused by pollution yearly. To be fair, the WHO includes more glaring issues such as a lack of sanitation and inadequate hygiene, but consider there are places in America that are struggling to get clean water out of their taps, and that issue is closer to home than we might think. It’s also worth noting these deaths can be indirect:
The first report… 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, such as access to safe water and clean cooking fuels.
That said, more than 570,000 children a year, according to the WHO, die of respiratory illness directly caused by air pollution, which is a particular point of concern. And the kids who survive will still deal with the setbacks that come from inhaling what amounts to trash dumped in their air from a plant fifty miles away.
The good news is that a lot of the problem is fairly simple to solve, at least on paper. Cutting down air pollution, building water treatment plants, and ensuring clean cooking fuels are burned to create food will go a long way towards sparing the lives of kids. Of course, that does require our politicians to get off their duffs, but surely so many unnecessary deaths a year is a good motivator, right?
(Via The Verge)