WHO: 600,000 children died from air pollution in 2016

WHO: 600,000 children died from air pollution in 2016
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An estimated 600,000 children died in 2016 from infections caused by air pollution, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday.

The organization also said in a statement that about 93 percent of the world's children under the age of 15 breathe air that is "so polluted it puts their health and development at serious risk."  

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Those estimates are part of a report published Monday by WHO on links between air pollution and the health of children. The release of the report comes on the eve of the organization's Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health. 

Children in low- and middle-income countries are exposed to air pollution at especially high rates, the report found.

The report's other findings include that pregnant women exposed to polluted air are more likely to give birth prematurely and that air pollution impacts cognitive abilities in children and can lead to asthma and cancer in children.

The report also found that many children are exposed to household air pollution because of cooking with polluting technologies. 

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of WHO, said in a statement that polluted air "is poisoning millions of children and ruining their lives.”

“This is inexcusable. Every child should be able to breathe clean air so they can grow and fulfill their full potential," Ghebreyesus added. 

WHO's Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health begins Tuesday in Geneva and will provide world leaders with potential solutions to the issues raised in the report.

Dr. Maria Neira, the director of WHO's Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants, said in a statement that "there are many straight-forward ways to reduce emissions of dangerous pollutants."

“WHO is supporting implementation of health-wise policy measures like accelerating the switch to clean cooking and heating fuels and technologies, promoting the use of cleaner transport, energy-efficient housing and urban planning," Neira said.

"We are preparing the ground for low emission power generation, cleaner, safer industrial technologies and better municipal waste management,” she added.