WHO warns that air pollution is “the new tobacco”
The head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said recently that “air pollution is the “new tobacco”” and that the simple act of breathing is killing 7 million people a year and harming billions more. According to a WHO report, around 93% of the world’s children under the age of 15 years (1.8 billion children) breathe air that is so polluted every day that it puts their health and development at serious risk.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General commented:
“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 fulfil their full potential.”
According to WHO, over 90% of the world’s population is exposed to toxic air and research is increasingly revealing the profound impacts on the health of people, especially children. Children are generally more affected than adults because they breathe more rapidly and therefore inhale more pollutants.
Dr Maria Neira, Director of the Department of Public Health at WHO described the wide ranging affects this pollution has on children:
“Air Pollution is stunting our children’s brains, affecting their health in more ways than we suspected. But there are many straight-forward ways to reduce emissions of dangerous pollutants.”
Not only is air pollution affecting the health and well-being of people, it is also having negative effects on the economy. According to a World Bank report, the cost of the lost lives and ill health caused is also a colossal economic burden: $5 trillion USD per year.
With smoking on the decline, air pollution now causes more deaths than tobacco. The World Health Organisation has called on governments across the globe to reduce their dependency on fossil fuels, invest in improving energy efficiency, and facilitate the uptake of renewable energy sources. According to the report, air pollution is one of the leading threats to child health, accounting for almost 1 in 10 deaths in children under five years of age.
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Photo credit: Flickr/Leniners