WHO: Unhealthy environment causes 1.7 million child deaths a year

| 7 March 2017, 21:24

Two reports issued by the World Health Organization say More than 1 in 4 deaths of children under 5 years of age are linked with unhealthy environments.

Every year, environmental risks such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, second-hand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and inadequate hygiene take the lives of 1.7 million children under 5 years.

The first report reveals that a large portion of the most common causes of death among children aged 1 month to 5 years, namely diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia could be prevented by applying environment risk reduction interventions such as access to safe water and clean cooking fuels.

"A polluted environment is deadly in particularly for young children," Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways in young children make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water, says Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General.

Harmful exposures can start in the mother’s womb and increase the risk of premature birth. Additionally, when infants and pre-schoolers are exposed to indoor and outdoor air pollution and second-hand smoke they have an increased risk of pneumonia in childhood, and a lifelong increased risk of chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma.

Exposure to air pollution may also increase their lifelong risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Top 5 causes of death in children under 5 years linked to the environment

Respiratory infections diarrhoea, because of poor access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene.,

children’s death during their first month of life from conditions, including prematurity, which could be prevented through access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene in health facilities as well as reducing air pollution, malaria as well as unintentional injuries attributable to the environment, such as poisoning, falls, and drowning claims hundreds of thousands of lives of children.

Ongoing and emerging environmental threats to children’s health

"A polluted environment results in a heavy toll on the health of our children; 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 Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. "

With climate change, temperatures and levels of carbon dioxide are rising which is associated with increased rates of asthma in children.

In households without access to basic services, such as safe water and sanitation, or that are smoky due to the use of unclean fuels, such as coal or dung for cooking and heating, children are at an increased risk of diarrhoea and pneumonia.

Children are also exposed to harmful chemicals through food, water, air and products around them.

Chemicals which affects their brain development and causes chronic poising in them.

Making all places safe for children

Reducing air pollution inside and outside households, improving safe water and sanitation and improving hygiene (including in health facilities where women give birth), protecting pregnant women from second-hand tobacco smoke, and building safer environments, can prevent children’s deaths and diseases.

Health doctors say fruit and dairy contain enough anti-oxidants and must be added to diet to prevent harms from unhealthy environment