2 billion: The number of children in the world who, according to a recent study from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), live in places where air pollution exceeds the level considered unhealthy by the World Health Organization (WHO).
300 million: The number of children in the world who breathe “highly toxic” air.
220 million: The number of children living in South Asia who are exposed to at least six times the level of air pollution considered safe by the WHO.
7 million: The number of deaths worldwide attributed to air pollution each year.
600,000: The number of deaths worldwide in children under the age of 5 attributed to air pollution each year.
10: The percentage of deaths in children under the age of 5 linked to air pollution.
2.5: The size of particulate matter (PM2.5), measured in micrometers, which are among the most dangerous air pollutants humans can breathe.
Geeta Anand explains how PM2.5 makes people, especially children whose lungs are still developing, sick:
The ultrafine particles enter the bloodstream through the lungs, worsening cardiac disease and increasing the risk of stroke and heart failure, in addition to causing severe respiratory problems, like asthma and pneumonia.
Early studies also suggest a possible link between pollution and children’s cognitive function, the Unicef report noted.
It also cited numerous studies connecting chronic exposure to high pollution with an increased risk of miscarriage and early labor in pregnant women, and low birth weight.
Air pollution causes asthma and makes existing asthma worse, and it causes other respiratory conditions to develop and worsen as well. Air pollution causes and worsens cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, resulting in heart attacks and strokes. Man-made toxic emissions into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels for industrial activities, transportation, and the development and generation of energy have been associated with miscarriage, premature births, low birthweight newborns, birth defects, autism, ADHD, obesity… and cancer. PM2.5 is a known carcinogen. So is benzene, a pollutant present practically everywhere oil, coal, and natural gas are produced and consumed. Numerous carcinogenic chemicals are produced when tobacco is lit and burned — an extremely serious health hazard for children exposed to secondhand smoke. Let’s also remember that air pollution causes stress in people who live with it, both in people with existing mental illness and in those with none. All of which brings us to the final number in today’s numbers game:
1: Air pollution’s ranking when the cost of progress on public health is measured.