Pollution is a topic of debate that has been in the spotlight for quite some time now, and while many people might think that it’s a tired subject or one that is unworthy of discussion, it doesn’t change the fact that it is still a major concern for our developing modern world.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that at least one-fourth of all global deaths of children under the age of five are caused by unhealthy or polluted environments featuring dirty water and air, second-hand smoke, and neglect when it comes to hygiene.
“A polluted environment is a deadly one -– particularly for young children," WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said. "Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water."
Children who are subjected to such environments often become afflicted with conditions such as diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia on a regular basis, causing up to 1.7 million child deaths each year.
The WHO report, entitled Inheriting a sustainable world: Atlas on children’s health and the environment, explains that exposure to such environments begins in the womb and continues into infancy. Not only does this increase their chances of developing chronic respiratory problems, such as asthma, but it also increases their likelihood of having heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Children who live in homes that lack access to basic amenities, such as proper sanitation and clean water, or that are near the burning of unclean fuels, are at a higher risk.
"Investing in the removal of environmental risks to health, such as improving water quality or using cleaner fuels, will result in massive health benefits," says Maria Neira, a WHO expert who has called on the governments of the world to work harder to create safer environments for the public and their children.