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Sierra Leone News: Polluted air is poisoning millions of children – WHO

Air pollution is “stunting children’s brains” and affecting their health in more ways than was previously suspected,” said Dr. Maria Neira, Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, World Health Organisation. In a call for concrete policy by government to tackle the problem, Dr. Neira reported that more than nine in 10 youngsters breathe air that is so polluted, “it puts their health and development at serious risk,” she stated. She estimated that 600,000 children around the globe died from acute lower respiratory infections caused by polluted air in 2016. According to an okada rider, “Everyday I drive in polluted air and breath in air from old vehicles that spew dirty exhaust. I’m sure that’s bad for me. Lumley traffic, Siaka Stevens Street and other areas of congestion are the worst.” “Youngsters are also more exposed to pollutants that stay closer to the ground at a time when their bodies and brains are still developing,” Dr. Neira said, adding that newborns and young children are more susceptible to household air pollution in homes that use polluting fuels for cooking, heating and lighting. According to WHO report, polluted air is poisoning millions of children and ruining their lives noting that the impact of air pollution both inside and outside the home is worst in low and middle-income countries. Among the WHO report’s other findings are data indicating that pregnant women are more likely to give birth prematurely when they are exposed to dirty air. Their babies are also prone to be underweight and small, WHO said, which also highlights how air pollution can trigger asthma and childhood cancer, while also hampering neuro-development. According to research conducted by M. Brauer in 2015 in “The Global Burden of Disease”, Sierra Leone scored 99.97/100 for polluted air as of 2015. Its highest value over the past 25 years was 100.00 in 2013, while its lowest value was 99.97 in 2005. Wood and charcoal fuels, widely used in Sierra Leone for cooking, may impact indoor air quality. There is presently a lack of data to quantify the extent of the impact of air pollution on people. There are no machines to test air quality and no air pollution measurements for Sierra Leone. As part of its call for action by the government, WHO is recommending a series of “straightforward” measures to reduce the health risks of polluted air. These include accelerating the switch to clean cooking and heating fuels and technologies, promoting the use of cleaner transport, energy-efficient housing and urban planning.


By Sylvia Villa

Monday November 05, 2018.

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