The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released its “Clear the Air for Children: The Impact of Air Pollution on Children” report in late October, and its finding are nothing short of horrific. Some of the most startling statistics contained in the report reveal that globally:
- Roughly 2 billion children reside in places ravaged with pollution levels surpassing the World Health Organization’s minimum air quality standards.
- Nearly 300 million children dwell in regions plagued with extremely toxic air pollution.
- Each year, almost 600,000 children under the age of five die, either directly or directly, from air pollution.
- Children living in polluted communities can suffer a 20% reduction in their lung capacity.
Certainly no coincidence, UNICEF decided to release the right before the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), scheduled for November 7-18 in Marrakesh, Morocco.
UNICEF used the COP 22 event as an opportunity to implore world leaders to take critical four steps within their respective countries that would help stop the global air pollution epidemic from spreading. These steps included:
- Taking a more aggressive approach toward reducing air pollution by limiting fossil fuel combustion, supporting low-carbon development strategies, and using financial resources to invest in sustainable energy.
- Curtailing children’s access to air pollution by constructing safer waste management practices, updating ventilation systems, and revamping urban planning designs that distance children from air pollution sources.
- Enhancing children’s general health to limit the negative effects of air pollution by supplying access to clean water and offering affordable, high-quality medical care.
- Using air quality monitoring systems to obtain information for the improvement of public education and environmental policy reform.