The cost of a polluted environment: 1.7 million child deaths a year, says WHO
Early this month a news release from World Health Organization dated March 6, 2017 stated that more than 1 in 4 deaths of children less than 5 years of age were attributed to unhealthy environments. Environmental risks, that include both indoor and outdoor air pollution, like second-hand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and inadequate hygiene take the lives of 1.7 million children under 5 years, every year!
How do we fare on the score in India and closer home around our own urban and
rural environs? Earlier on we were contending with death among children aged 1 month to 5 years with diseases like diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia. These were at least prevented by medical interventions known to reduce risks and with access to safe water and clean cooking fuels.
But polluted environments are now becoming more deadly especially for younger children. The WHO report mentions that – “Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water.” Harmful exposures actually may start even in the mother’s womb to increase risk of premature births.
Further when infants are exposed to indoor and outdoor air pollution and second-hand smoke they have increased risks. Exposure to air pollution may also increase their lifelong risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. Another WHO report provides a comprehensive overview of the environment’s impact on children’s health. The challenges escalate with each passing year.
We in India too are seeing ongoing and emerging environmental threats to children’s health. HERD Foundation has begun to start investing in removal of environmental risks to children’s health, especially in rural areas. We do not want children to be exposed to harmful chemicals through food, water or air around them.
In the largely agricultural rural communities harmful pesticides do find their way into the food chain. HERD Organic Farms is an effort to reduce the use of hazardous pesticides and to avoid using harmful chemicals of food. Organic farming appears to us to be the way out to ensure healthy lives and promote general well-being, particularly to impact children’s health.