From October 30 to November 1, the first world conference on air pollution and health was held in Geneva, WHO headquarters.
Different topics were mentioned, such as indoor pollution, the effects of pollution on health, how to reduce air pollution or how to improve the health of the youngest.
"If the cost of the action is high, the cost of inaction is much higher"
"People's expectations around the world are very great, the world is watching us, we must not let it down." (Fiona Godlee, Editor-in-Chief, British Medical Journal)
Every day, nearly 93% of children under the age of 15 in the world (1.8 billion children) breathe an air so polluted that their health and development are seriously endangered.
Many are dying: the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in 2016, 600,000 children died of acute lower respiratory tract infections due to air pollution.
A new report from the WHO on air pollution and child health (Prescribing clean air) looks at the heavy toll that outdoor air pollution and indoor air pollution is a burden on children's health around the world, especially in low- and middle-income countries. This report appears on the eve of the first ever WHO World Conference on Air Pollution and Health. It reveals that when pregnant women are exposed to polluted air, they are more likely to give birth prematurely, and to give birth to low weighted newborns. Air pollution also affects neurodevelopment and cognitive abilities, and can cause asthma and some childhood cancers.
Children who have been exposed to high levels of air pollution may be at high risk for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease later in life. "Air pollution poisons millions of children and destroys their lives, "says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. "It's inexcusable. Every child must be able to breathe unpolluted air in order to grow and flourish fully. " One of the reasons for which children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution is that they breathe faster than adults and thus absorb more pollutants. They also live at a lesser distance from soil, where some pollutants reach record levels - at a time when their brain and body are in full development.
Newborns and young children are also more sensitive to indoor air pollution where the techniques and fuels used regularly for cooking, heating and lighting are polluting.
«Air pollution slows the child's brain development and affects their health in many ways and more than we think. But there are many simple ways to reduce emissions of hazardous pollutants, "says Dr. Maria Neira, Director of the Department of Public Health, Social and Environmental Determinants of Health at WHO."
Several conclusions were drawn following the WHO conference:
The health sector must take steps to inform, educate, provide resources for health professionals, and engage in intersectoral policy development.
Policies must be implemented to reduce air pollution: all countries must strive to meet WHO's global air quality guidelines to improve the health and safety of children. In order to achieve this, governments need to adopt measures such as reducing excessive dependence on fossil fuels in the global energy mix, investing to improve energy efficiency and facilitating the adoption of renewable energies. Better waste management can reduce the amount of waste burned in communities and therefore reduce air pollution within communities. The exclusive use of techniques and non-polluting fuels for cooking, heating and lighting in homes can significantly improve indoor air quality inside homes and inside the communities they form.
Marie Noelle Brune-Drisse emphasized that we all have a role to play in this fight.
Measures must be taken to minimize the exposure of children to air pollution: schools and nurseries should be located away from major sources of air pollution such as high-traffic roads, factories or power plants.
Air pollution is not a local phenomenon. Pollution travels long distances, fine particles in China can reach the United States.1.2 and 1.8 gigatonnes of mineral particles in the air come from the desert in Africa. They are transported to the Caribbean, Europe, the Pacific and Asia. They're composed of Silica, Silica, Felspar, Magnesium etc. African dust storms are heading towards other regions (ex : Pollution peak in Spain on the coast, PM10 increase and therefore mortality)
3 million workers worldwide are exposed to air pollution. Air quality in the workplace is essential for the health of workers. 1.2 billion people are currently working outside. All of these workers are exposed to outdoor pollution.