NEW DELHI: India’s toxic air has been linked to the premature deaths of close to 1,10,000 children in 2016, with the country witnessing highest number of deaths of children under five years of age attributed to their exposure to ambient air pollution of particulate matter (PM) 2.5, said a World Health Organisation (WHO) report released on the eve of the first-ever conference on air pollution and health.
As many as 60,987 children of under five years of age in India died because of their exposure to PM 2.5, followed by Nigeria with 47,674 deaths, Pakistan with 21,136 deaths and Democratic Republic of Congo with 12,890 deaths.
In India, the death rate for this age bracket is 50.8 per 1,00,000 children with more girls under the age of five dying than boys due to pollution. About 32,889 girls died, compared to 28,097 boys in 2016, according to the report.
Between five and 14 years, India saw the deaths of 4,360 children attributed to ambient air pollution in 2016.
Across both these age groups, over 1 lakh children died in India due to both ambient and household pollution of particulate matter 2.5 in 2016. Particulate matter 2.5 or PM 2.5 are fine dust particles in air which are considered highly harmful for health.
The report, titled ‘Air Pollution and Child Health – Prescribing clean air’, seeks to caution against the rising levels of pollution causing growing burden of diseases as well as deaths.
Recommended By Colombia Over 2 million deaths occur prematurely in India due to pollution, accounting for 25% of the global deaths due to air pollution.
Globally, every day around 93% of children under the age of 15 years (1.8 billion children) breathe air that is so polluted it puts their health and development at serious risk. WHO estimates that in 2016, almost 6,00,000 children died from acute lower respiratory infections caused by polluted air.
While in low and middle income countries, 98% of children under five are said to be exposed to PM 2.5, in high income countries, this number is almost half at 52%. The report also highlights adverse impact of pollution on pregnant women and children. Pregnant women, exposed to polluted air, are more likely to give birth prematurely, and have small, low birth-weight children, the report says.
“Air pollution is stunting our children’s brains, affecting their health in more ways than we suspected,” said Dr Maria Neira, director, department of public health, environmental and social determinants of health at WHO.
By Sushmi Dey/TNN/October 30, 2018