By
Ngozi Nwankwo

TWO
recent reports from
World Health Organisation
said More than one in four
deaths in children under
five are linked to polluted
environments.
According to the reports,
Each year, environmental
risks such as indoor and
outdoor pollution, second-
hand smoke, unsafe water
and poor sanitation kill
around 1.7 million children
between the ages of one
month and five years.
The reports said harmful
exposure can start in the
mother’s womb, increasing
the risk of premature birth,
which can lead to life-long
health proble.
“When children are exposed
to air pollutants they also
can face a lifelong increased
risk of chronic respiratory
diseases, like asthma, and
of heart disease, stroke and
cancer,” it said.
The findings were in line
with a WHO study published
last year showing that
about a quarter of all deaths
worldwide, across all age
groups, were attributable to
environmental factors like
air, water and soil pollution,
as well as unsafe roads and
workplace stress.
The reports quoted WHO
chief Margaret Chan as saying
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,” she said.
The reports revealed that
an estimated 570,000 children
under five die each year from
respiratory infections such
as pneumonia, which are
attributable to air pollution
and second-hand smoke, the
reports found.
“And 361,000 others are
killed by diarrhoea resulting
from poor access to clean
water, sanitation and hygiene,
the agency said.
“Another 200,000
children under five die from
unintentional injuries linked
to unhealthy environments,
including poisonings, falls
and drowning, “WHO said.
The agency emphasized
that a large portion of
deaths among children
stemming from common
causes like diarrhea, malaria
and pneumonia could be
prevented by reducing
environmental risks.
“Simply increasing access
to safe water and clean

cooking fuels, removing unsafe
building materials like lead
paint, and reducing the use
of hazardous pesticides and
chemicals could go a long way
in preventing such deaths,” the
reports said
“A full 200,000 deaths each
year among children under five
due to malaria, for example,
could be avoided through
actions like reducing breeding
sites for mosquitos and covering
drinking water storage.
“At the same time, a range of
new environmental hazards is
emerging, like the ballooning
piles of discarded mobile
phones and other electronic
and electrical waste, which is
expected to hit 50 million metric
tonnes globally by next year.
“When not properly recycled,
such waste can expose children
to toxins that can lead to reduced
intelligence, attention disorders,
lung damage and cancer, the
WHO warned.
“Climate change is also taking
its toll on children, the reports
found.
“Rising levels of carbon
dioxide contribute to pollen
growth, which in turn is leading
to rising rates of asthma in
young people,” said WHO

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