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Two billion children worldwide affected by air pollution, UNICEF study says

A report released Monday said one in seven children lives in areas of high air pollution.

By Ed Adamczyk
Two billion children worldwide affected by air pollution, UNICEF study says
Heavy traffic inches along on a main ring road under heavy pollution in Beijing on July 19, 2016. The United Nations agency UNICEF reported Monday that one in seven children in the world is exposed to excessive levels of air pollution. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- One in seven children in the world lives in an area with air pollution levels six or more times higher than international guidelines, the United Nations reported Monday.

UNICEF, the U.N.'s children's agency, used satellite imagery in a report released Monday to demonstrate children's' exposure to outdoor pollution levels as established by the World Health organization. The report, "Clear the Air for Children," said the satellite photographs confirm that around two billion children live in areas where outdoor air pollution, caused by factors such as vehicle emissions, heavy use of fossil fuels, dust and burning of waste, exceeds minimum WHO air quality guidelines. South Asia has 620 million children in these areas, Africa has 520 million and the East Asia and Pacific region has 450 million, the report said.

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The report was issued in advance of next week's COP 22, or 22nd Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Marrakesh, Morocco. Countries will be called upon to take action to reduce air pollution.

"Air pollution is a major contributing factor in the deaths of around 600,000 children under five every year, and it threatens the lives and futures of millions more every day," said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. "Pollutants don't only harm children's developing lungs, they can actually cross the blood-brain barrier and permanently damage their developing brains, and thus their futures. No society can afford to ignore air pollution."

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