Air Pollution Kills 2,000 Kids a Day

Here’s an environmental issue we can each readily address. The impact of air pollution is more severe for youngsters, though people of all ages suffer asthma and other respiratory maladies. The change to e-cars cuts large-scale outdoor air solution. But we can easily end our homes’ indoor air pollution, improving health, and saving money. Suggestions afterwards.


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Global Air Pollution Kills 2,000

Kids Under Five Every Day: Report


“Our inaction is having profound effects on the next generation,

with lifelong health and well-being impacts,” said one UNICEF official.



Common Dreams

Jun 19, 2024


Air pollution is now the second-biggest killer of children under the age of five globally, a new report released Wednesday shows, with the climate emergency and the continued use of dirty energy sources inextricably linked to the growing risk faced by young children exposed to toxic fumes.

Each day, according to the State of Global Air report by the Health Effects Institute (HEI) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), nearly 2,000 children under the age of five die from the effects of air pollution, with children in the Global South most at risk.

In most African countries, children under five are 100 times more likely to die from asthma and other effects of air pollution than their counterparts in high-income countries.

In 2021, according to the report, air pollution was second only to malnutrition as a risk factor for death among young children. For the general population, air pollution overtook tobacco use as the second-leading cause of death worldwide, with high blood pressure still the leading cause.


Air pollution now kills more children worldwide

than poor sanitation and a lack of clean drinking water.


The report should serve as “a stark reminder of the significant impacts air pollution has on human health, with far too much of the burden borne by young children, older populations, and low- and middle-income countries.” Dr. Pallavi Pant, head of global health for HEI, said …


“This points sharply at an opportunity

for cities and countries to consider air

quality and air pollution as high risk

factors when developing health policies

and other noncommunicable disease

prevention and control programs.”


The analysis pointed to specific ways in which the effects of the climate emergency, such as prolonged droughts and the wildfires that have resulted from dry conditions in places like Chile and Canada, has made it more likely that children around the world will suffer from life-threatening air pollution.

“As droughts become more severe and prolonged and land becomes drier, wildfires ravage once-thriving forests and dust storms impact vast plains, filling the air with particles that linger for long periods of time,” reads the report.

The particles that HEI and UNICEF expressed the greatest concern about are particulate matter (PM) 2.5, which are smaller than 2.4 micrometers in diameter and can enter people’s bloodstreams and organs. PM 2.5 has been associated with heart disease, stroke, lung disease, and other health problems, and is behind 90% of air pollution-related deaths.

PM 2.5 is carried into communities through wildfire smoke and emissions, but can also be present in homes as people across the Global South – including 95% of the population in at least 18 African countries – rely on the burning of solid fuels for cooking.

About half a million children died in 2021 from exposure to polluted indoor air, according to HEI, as families rely on burning coal, paraffin, and other solid fuels.

Providing families with cleaner-burning cookstoves, grid electricity, and cleaner fuels has helped cut childhood deaths from pollution by 53% since 2000, according to the report, but the number of children continuing to die from indoor air pollution is “staggering,” said HEI.

Kitty van der Heijden, deputy executive director of UNICEF, said …


“Our inaction is having profound effects

on the next generation, with lifelong health

and well-being impacts. The global urgency

is undeniable. It is imperative that govern-

ments and businesses consider these estimates

and locally available data and use it to inform

meaningful, child-focused action to reduce

air pollution and protect children’s health.”


Along with wildfires and the use of dirty fuels for household needs, the climate emergency’s impact on global temperatures is linked to the high death toll from air pollution among children.

High temperatures can cause a higher prevalence of pollutants like nitrogen oxides and ozone, which can irritate people’s airways and cause more frequent and severe symptoms in people with asthma. Long-term exposure to ground-level ozone pollution is also linked to the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPB), which accounted for nearly half a million of 8 million worldwide deaths related to air pollution in 2021.

While air pollution is disproportionately harming children and adults in low-income countries, wealthy countries including the U.S. are also affected by ozone pollution, which can be heightened by high temperatures. The report reads …


“In 2021, nearly 50% of all ozone-related

COPD deaths were in India (237,000

deaths) followed by China (125,600

deaths) and Bangladesh (15,000 deaths).”

Notably, the United States – partly due

to its sizable population, widespread

ozone pollution, and relatively high rates

of COPD – saw 14,000 deaths in 2021,

more than any other high-income country.”


Asthma and Lung U.K. said HEI’s report showed the need for policymakers to pass laws providing funding for families to purchase electric vehicles or use other cleaner travel options. The London-based group said …


“Air pollution’s impact on child health

is unacceptable. We need political

parties to step up and commit to

clean air laws now to reduce air

pollution and protect children.”


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Indoor air quality is virtually never mentioned in articles about sustainable housing. But to gain heating and cooling efficiency we necessarily make the home “tighter” – reducing cracks under doors or air passing through window openings. To provide specifics, on our web site,, under the “videos” heading, a right-hand column contains ten free one-minute mini-videos, each addressing a specific aspect of indoor air quality. Each is designed to provide a helpful tip and be fun to watch.

Remember, when we make our home’s envelope more efficient, even our breathing reduces air quality. We’re increasing CO2. That’s why I include a few large-leafed plants in each atrium, such as a Bird of Paradise or Giant Peace Lily; they soak up CO2 and emit O2. Beyond that …

Switch to an induction electric cooktop, eliminating fossil fuel use. And select surface materials that do not off-gas, such as zero VOC paint or floor coverings that do not off-gas. (D actually had nothing to add; maybe I’m getting better.)


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