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Children face much higher health risks from air pollution than adults. Children breathe twice as quickly, taking in more air in relation to their body weight, while their brains and immune systems are still developing and vulnerable. Tiny particulate matter in polluted air can cause lung cancer, strokes and heart disease over the long term, as well as triggering symptoms such as stroke and heart attacks that kill more rapidly.
About 600,000 children younger than 5 across the world are dying every year from air pollution-related diseases. Millions more are suffer from respiratory diseases that diminish their resilience and affect their physical and cognitive development.
Counting 2 billion children breathing unhealthy air—out of a total 2.26 billion world population of children—means the vast majority are being exposed to levels of pollution considered by the world Health Organisation to be unsafe.
About a third of the 2 billion children in the world who are breathing toxic air live in northern India and neighboring countries, risking serious health effects including damage to their lungs, brains and other organs.
Out of that 2 billion breathing toxic air, about 620 million of them are in South Asia—mostly in northern India. Another 520 million children are breathing toxic air in Africa, and 450 million are in East Asia, mainly China.
The WHO categorised air pollution as the sixth biggest cause of deaths in India, triggering an alarm with studies showing breathing ailments were on the rise in Indian cities.