When it comes to death rates and the top causes of death, diseases like heart disease and cancer often receive the most attention and are the major focus of awareness campaigns and donations.
But few people realize the effects our environment has on diseases and how they can cause serious harm, especially to the most vulnerable members of our society: children.
According to a new WHO report, the damage caused by environmental pollution is a massive problem, and it’s one that certainly deserves more attention as we continue to push for cleaner food, air and water.
It’s one that affects us all, and one that is particular devastating in areas where kids and their pregnant mothers are exposed.
WHO Report: Nearly 2 Million Die From Pollution
As noted in this article from the website LiveScience.com, pollution is a deadly problem for a vast amount of children around the world: over a quarter of deaths in children under age 5 worldwide have ties to polluted environments, including water and smog-riddled air.
The article cited a new report from the World Health Organization which found that nearly 2 million kids (1.7 million to be exact) under age five die from such causes, about 26 percent of all deaths in the age group as of 2012.
With sensitive bodies and immune systems, the pollution hits kids particularly hard, scientists within the organization say.
“A polluted environment is a deadly one — particularly for young children,” Dr. Margaret Chan, the director-general of WHO, said in a statement. “Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water.”
Per body size, kids drink more water and breathe a greater volume of air than adults, which has the net effect of exposing them to even more contaminants from the environment. Kids also are more likely to play outdoors and put their hands on various objects or place them in their mouth, which also increases exposure.
The most common forms of death estimated in 2012 related to pollution are as follows:
-570,000 kids under age 5 died from respiratory infections including pneumonia, which can be tied to pollution both indoors and outdoors, from unclean fuel sources, secondhand smoke, vehicle emissions, smoke from household stoves and more
-270,000 children died during their first month of life due to premature births influenced by air pollution, contaminants in water and poor sanitation; as experienced by their mothers
-200,000 kids died from malaria that could have possibly been prevented by limiting mosquitoes’ breeding grounds by reducing areas of stagnant water where the insects breed
For more information on the other major causes of environmental pollution-related deaths, check out the full article from LiveScience by clicking on this link.
It is also well worth noting that over 200,000 people die yearly from direct exposure to pesticides, one of the most persistent and harmful environmental pollutants we currently have. Learn more in this article, which includes a link to a new report from the UN slamming the chemical food industry over its myth that we need synthetic pesticide-intensive agriculture to “feed the world.”