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Global Health
December 18, 2018

Global Impact of Air Pollution on Children’s Health

JAMA. 2018;320(23):2412. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.19559

Indoor and outdoor air pollution contributed to respiratory tract infections that in 2016 led to the deaths of 543 000 children younger than 5 years, according to a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) that emphasizes children’s vulnerability to polluted air.

The report describes the harm children face from ambient air pollution that results from fossil fuel combustion, waste incineration, dust storms, wildfires, and industrial processes as well as indoor air pollution from burning polluting fuels to cook and heat homes. Some 93% of children and teens younger than 15 years worldwide are exposed to ambient air pollution with fine particulate matter levels higher than limits in the WHO air quality guidelines. Death rates from both types of air pollution are highest among children in low- and middle-income countries. In some regions, children die at rates more than 40 times higher than in more affluent areas.