Two billion children breathe toxic air worldwide, UNICEF says

October 31, 2016 by Katy Daigle
A Delhi traffic policeman talks to a bus driver at an intersection amidst smoke and smog, on the morning following Diwali festival in New Delhi, India, Monday, Oct. 31, 2016. As Indians wake Monday to smoke-filled skies from a weekend of festival fireworks for the Hindu holiday of Diwali, New Delhi's worst season for air pollution begins, with dire consequences. A new report from UNICEF says about a third of the 2 billion children in the world who are breathing toxic air live in northern India and neighboring countries, risking serious health effects including damage to their lungs, brains and other organs. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

As Indians awoke Monday to smoke-filled skies from a weekend of festival fireworks, New Delhi's worst season for air pollution began—with dire consequences.

A new report from UNICEF says about a third of the 2 billion children in the world who are breathing toxic air live in northern India and neighboring countries, risking serious health effects including damage to their lungs, brains and other organs. Of that global total, 300 million kids are exposed to pollution levels more than six times higher than standards set by the World Health Organization, including 220 million in South Asia.

For the Indian capital, the alarming numbers are hardly a surprise. New Delhi's air pollution, among the world's worst, spikes every winter because of the season's weak winds and countless garbage fires set alight to help people stay warm.

Even days before the city erupted in annual fireworks celebrations for the Hindu holiday of Diwali, recorded levels of tiny, lung-clogging particulate matter known as PM 2.5 were considered dangerous Friday at well above 300 micrograms per cubic meter. By Monday morning, the city was recording PM 2.5 levels above 900 mcg per cubic meter—more than 90 times higher than the WHO recommendation of no more than 10 mcg per cubic meter.

Indians walk to work as Delhi traffic police officers manage an intersection enveloped by smoke and smog, on the morning following Diwali festival in New Delhi, India, Monday, Oct. 31, 2016. As Indians wake Monday to smoke-filled skies from a weekend of festival fireworks for the Hindu holiday of Diwali, New Delhi's worst season for air pollution begins, with dire consequences. A new report from UNICEF says about a third of the 2 billion children in the world who are breathing toxic air live in northern India and neighboring countries, risking serious health effects including damage to their lungs, brains and other organs. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

"My eyes are irritated, I'm coughing and I find it difficult to breathe," said 18-year-old Delhi student Dharmendra, who uses only one name as is common in India. Because of the pollution, "I don't go out so much nowadays."

New Delhi residents were advised to stay indoors on Monday, with health warnings issued for the young, elderly and those with respiratory or heart conditions. Officials said the high pollution levels were made worse by the ongoing burning of spent crops in agricultural fields in the neighboring states of Punjab and Haryana.

"Pollution levels every winter gallop, and we are already beginning to see the signs of it," said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director of the Centre for Science and Environment, a Delhi-based research and lobbying organization. Some local studies indicate up to a third of Delhi's children have impaired lung function and respiratory diseases like asthma, she said. "This really signals health disaster."

A man covers his face with a scarf as he rides in front of the landmark India Gate, enveloped by smoke and smog, on the morning following Diwali festival in New Delhi, India, Monday, Oct. 31, 2016. As Indians wake Monday to smoke-filled skies from a weekend of festival fireworks for the Hindu holiday of Diwali, New Delhi's worst season for air pollution begins, with dire consequences. A new report from UNICEF says about a third of the 2 billion children in the world who are breathing toxic air live in northern India and neighboring countries, risking serious health effects including damage to their lungs, brains and other organs. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Children face much higher health risks from air pollution than adults. Children breathe twice as quickly, taking in more air in relation to their body weight, while their brains and immune systems are still developing and vulnerable.

"The impact is commensurately shocking," with 600,000 children younger than 5 across the world dying every year from air pollution-related diseases, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in the report released Monday. "Millions more suffer from respiratory diseases that diminish their resilience and affect their physical and cognitive development.

Counting 2 billion children breathing unhealthy air—out of a total 2.26 billion world population of children—means the vast majority are being exposed to levels of pollution considered by the WHO to be unsafe.

A crow sits on the railing of an overpass enveloped by smoke and smog, on the morning following Diwali festival in New Delhi, India, Monday, Oct. 31, 2016. As Indians wake Monday to smoke-filled skies from a weekend of festival fireworks for the Hindu holiday of Diwali, New Delhi's worst season for air pollution begins, with dire consequences. A new report from UNICEF says about a third of the 2 billion children in the world who are breathing toxic air live in northern India and neighboring countries, risking serious health effects including damage to their lungs, brains and other organs. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Out of that 2 billion breathing toxic air, the report puts 620 million of them in South Asia—mostly northern India. Another 520 million children are breathing toxic air in Africa, and 450 million in East Asia, mainly China, according to the report, which combined satellite images of pollution and ground data with demographic patterns to determine which populations fell into the highest risk areas.

Since being identified as one of the world's most polluted cities in recent years, New Delhi has tried to clean its air. It has barred cargo trucks from city streets, required drivers to buy newer cars that meet higher emissions standards and carried out several weeks of experimental traffic control, limiting the number of cars on the road. But other pollution sources, including construction dust and cooking fires fueled by wood or kerosene, continue unabated.

Last week, the city launched a smartphone application called "Change the Air" inviting residents to send photos and complaints about illegal pollution sources, from the burning of leaves and garbage in public parks to construction crews working without dust control measures.

A man rides a scooter on a road enveloped by smoke and smog, on the morning following Diwali festival in New Delhi, India, Monday, Oct. 31, 2016. As Indians wake Monday to smoke-filled skies from a weekend of festival fireworks for the Hindu holiday of Diwali, New Delhi's worst season for air pollution begins, with dire consequences. A new report from UNICEF says about a third of the 2 billion children in the world who are breathing toxic air live in northern India and neighboring countries, risking serious health effects including damage to their lungs, brains and other organs. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

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Bart_A
3 / 5 (2) Oct 31, 2016
Dehli has highs of 30 or 31C, and its residents need to burn garbage to stay warm?

Indians have a long history of resisting change for the better. Their widows were burned to death until missionaries convinced the English leadership to start to bring an end it.

The caste system is "officially" gone, but in reality it is still a pervasive evil force.

Recently they are trying to get people to stop passing feces in public.

I guess after they get some of their other problems taken care of, then they can tackle pollution.

entrance
1 / 5 (2) Oct 31, 2016
The problem is that there are too many people on Earth. In India, Bangladesh and China live ~ 2773 million people, that's a bit more than one third of the world population ( https://upload.wi...2000.png ). All these three countries have a very high population density. And the population of these countries is still growing by ~ 6 %.

Overpopulation causes a lot of problems: water and air pollution, climate change, mass extinction of animal species, increased emergence of new epidemics and pandemics, and so on. But their main problem will be the increasing difficulties to supply water and food. A lot of people are already forced to eat genetically modified food. But gene manipulation also has it's limits. What's next? "Soylent Green"? The lack of food will certainly lead to crisis and wars all over the world.

We should solve this overpopulation problem. I am ready to help.
RMQ
4 / 5 (2) Oct 31, 2016
First, I am not Indian.... But I found so hilarious that some people say that India has problems to change! lol.... At least they do not sell weapons at grocery stores. At least India do not have a huge number of deaths caused by pharmaceuticals, which companies control their government. At least the epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases is not reaching the roof in India.

India has a very serious problem that "coincidentally" was not mentioned yet because it is a contribution of the westerners: very high alcohol intake.

Funny how westerners want to "help" those countries. Hope the "help" does not involve an invasion with scores of deaths. Very typical of those cultures... in the meantime, they will put a psychopath in the white house with a stripper as first "lady".
Edenlegaia
3 / 5 (2) Oct 31, 2016
We should solve this overpopulation problem. I am ready to help.


Didn't you....say that already, some days ago.....?
Nevermind. Please help us. Solve yourself first.
antigoracle
1 / 5 (1) Nov 01, 2016
If you truly believe that the WHO and UNICEF care for these children, then let me suggest you stand in front of a mirror and punch yourself in the face until you come to your senses. These organizations are parasites whose sole existence is to feed on human suffering.
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Nov 01, 2016
We should solve this overpopulation problem. I am ready to help.


Didn't you....say that already, some days ago.....?
Nevermind. Please help us. Solve yourself first.

Actually, I think the Malthusian Entrance wants to go "hunting"...
"Thin the herd", so to speak...

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