SOURCE: The Guardian, WHO

DATE: October 29, 2017

SNIP: Poisonous air is having a devastating impact on billions of children around the world, damaging their intelligence and leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths, according to a report from the World Health Organization.

The study found that more than 90% of the world’s young people – 1.8 billion children – are breathing toxic air, storing up a public health time bomb for the next generation.

The WHO said medical experts in almost every field of children’s health are uncovering new evidence of the scale of the crisis in both rich and poor countries – from low birth weight to poor neurodevelopment, asthma to heart disease.

“Air pollution is stunting our children’s brains, affecting their health in more ways than we suspected,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO director of public health and the environment.

The study found that 600,000 children die from acute lower respiratory infections caused by dirty air and 93% are exposed to one of the most damaging pollutants – PM2.5. Particulates are the deadliest form of air pollution due to their ability to penetrate deep into the lungs and blood streams unfiltered, causing permanent DNA mutations, heart attacks, respiratory disease, and premature death. PM2.5 were particularly deadly, with a 36% increase in lung cancer per 10 μg/m3 as it can penetrate deeper into the lungs.

Globally, with smoking on the decline, air pollution now causes more deaths annually than tobacco. However, researchers think the harm known to be caused by air pollution, such as heart attacks and lung disease, is only “the tip of the iceberg”.