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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.

"Air pollution is one of the biggest threats to health in the world, killing 7 million people each year, causing cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease, with devastating impacts. We can and we must do better by with actions. We have irrefutable evidence of the harmful effects of air pollution. More and more cities around the world are taking action. "(Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization)

"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)

Pollution issues for the youngest

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."

Air pollution and its effects on health, a heavy balance

Several conclusions were drawn following the WHO conference:

  • Air pollution causes 29% of lung cancer, and 25% of heart disease deaths
  • Air pollution affects neurodevelopment, leading to lower cognitive test scores, and has negative consequences on mental and motor development.
  • Air pollution damages the lung function of children even at low exposure levels.
  • Globally, 93% of children under the age of 15 all around the world are exposed to levels of ambient fine particles (PM2.5) above the levels recommended by the WHO guidelines on air quality, among which 630 million children under five, and 1.8 billion children under 15 years old.
  • In low- and middle-income countries around the world, 98% of children under five are exposed to levels of fine particles in the ambient air (PM2.5), which is excessive compared to the levels recommended by the guidelines. WHO on the quality of the air. By comparison, in high-income countries, 52% of children are exposed to levels above the levels recommended by WHO.
  • More than 40% of the world's population - including 1 billion children under the age of 15 - is exposed to high levels of indoor air pollution, mainly due to polluting technologies and fuels used to cook.
  • Approximately 600,000 deaths among children under the age of 15 were attributed to the joint effects of indoor air pollution and indoor air pollution in 2016.
  • Cumulated, indoor air pollution due to cooking and outdoor air pollution causes more than 50% of acute lower respiratory infections in children under the age of five in countries of low and middle income.
  • Air pollution is one of the main threats to child health, responsible for almost one in 10 deaths among children under the age of five.

What precautions should we take against this "silent killer"

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.

Link between climate change and air pollution

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.

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