Massacre! Premature deaths of children due to air pollution exposure

Indoor Air Cartoon Journal, November 2018, Volume 1, #31

A stop must be put to the annual “massacre” caused by air pollution. People are being killed in millions, especially the children. Children are vulnerable due to their fast breathing rate and developing an immune system. Exposure of children to air pollution could also lead to lifelong health implications if they do not die. Exposure to air pollution occurs in the outdoor and indoor environment. This means there is no safe zone for anybody and children that are totally helpless. The unfortunate thing is that we, the humans, are the one “inviting” air pollution to our shore in exchange for rapid urbanisation. Unfortunately, air pollution invades outdoor and indoor environment to cause “massacre” – millions of people die prematurely annually. Quoting the World Health Organization (WHO), “Ambient air pollution was responsible for 4.2 premature deaths in 2016, almost 300,000 were children under the age of 5 years. Household air pollution was responsible for 3.8 premature deaths in 2016, including over 400, 000 deaths of children under 5 years.”

So what can we do to reduce and hopefully eradicate the “massacre”? Risk assessment of the “massacre” occurring could provide us direction on what to do. Assessment of hazard and vulnerability will be useful in determining the level of risk. The presence of air pollutants – hazard – in the outdoor and indoor environment poses threat to whoever is exposed to them. The presence of sources and most especially human activities contributing to these pollutants will increase the hazard level and the probability of mortality and morbidity cases occurring. People present, living or working in polluted areas will be more vulnerable than those not in such areas or people in areas with lower concentrations of pollutants.

The physiology of exposed people will also determine the level of vulnerability. Children, especially the younger ones, people with pre-existing health or respiratory problems, the sick and elderly will be more vulnerable than those not within the group. Human decisions or activities that led to the increase and decrease in concentrations of exposed pollutants in outdoor and indoor environment will increase and decrease the vulnerability of exposed people respectively. Actions taken when people have been exposed will also determine their level of vulnerability, and the level of vulnerability will determine the risk of mortality and morbidity occurrence.

What are the practical implications of this knowledge on policymakers, building users, designers – architects and engineers, contractors, operators, developers, and owners towards creating a healthy living for people?

31_Air pollution and Child health_IAC 31

Do you want to know more about this topic? Read WHO (2018) report titled “Air pollution and child health: Prescribing clean air.

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