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The World Health Organization released the numbers today and they are a real eye opener.

1.7 million children killed yearly by polluted environments

Leeanna McLean
Digital Reporter

Monday, March 6, 2017, 2:23 PM - Polluted environments are responsible for the deaths of 1.7 million children a year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

In a news release issued Monday, the organization pointed to several environmental risks that lead to fatality including, indoor and outdoor air pollution, second-hand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and inadequate hygiene.

The WHO outlined some of the most common causes of death among children ages one month to five years, which include: diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia.

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"A polluted environment is a deadly one -- particularly for young children," WHO director-general Margaret Chan said in the release. "Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water."

Harmful exposure can start in the womb, with an increased risk of pneumonia and lifelong chronic respiratory diseases when exposed to indoor and outdoor air pollution and second-hand smoke as an infant or preschooler, the release highlighted.

According to the WHO, air pollution also increases the lifelong risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer.

If improperly recycled, emerging environmental hazards like e-waste can be very harmful as it exposes children to toxins, which can lead to reduced intelligence, attention deficits, lung damage and cancer, the WHO noted.

"The generation of electronic and electrical waste is forecasted to increase by 19% between 2014 and 2018, to 50 million metric tonnes by 2018," the release highlighted.

As global temperatures and levels of carbon dioxide continue to rise with climate change, the WHO says there is an increased risk of asthma, with up to 14 per cent of children aged five years and older currently reporting asthma symptoms.

Children are also exposed to harmful chemicals such as fluoride, lead and mercury pesticides through food, water, air and products around them, the report noted.

As a result of these findings, the WHO is urging governments around the globe to do more to protect the lives of future generations.

"A polluted environment results in a heavy toll on the health of our children," Dr. Maria Neira, WHO Director of the department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health said. "Investing in the removal of environmental risks to health, such as improving water quality or using cleaner fuels, will result in massive health benefits."


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