Air Pollution: A Deadly Threat to Children's Lives

Air Pollution: A Deadly Threat to Children's Lives

Air Pollution: A Deadly Threat to Children's Lives

June 20, 2024 — Air pollution is now the second leading cause of death among children under the age of five, trailing only poor sanitation and lack of clean water. A recent study by the US-based organization Health Effects Institute (HEI) has highlighted the alarming impact of air pollution on global health, revealing that approximately 2,000 children under five die each day due to this environmental hazard.

Key Findings from the Study

The study, part of the "State of Global Air" report published by HEI in collaboration with UNICEF, sheds light on the severe health consequences of both indoor and outdoor air pollution. In 2021, air pollution was responsible for the deaths of 8 million people worldwide. Health-related deaths linked to pollution are on the rise, making air pollution the second leading cause of mortality globally, after tobacco use, and a significant contributor to high blood pressure-related fatalities.

Impact on Children

Among children under five, air pollution is a major killer, second only to malnutrition. The study underscores the disproportionate impact on children in underdeveloped countries, where the mortality rate due to air pollution is 100 times higher than in high-income countries. This stark disparity highlights the urgent need for targeted interventions in these vulnerable regions.

Disparities and Vulnerable Populations

Pallavi Pant, the study's lead author and Head of HEI, emphasized the uneven burden of air pollution, noting that young children, the elderly, and populations in middle-income countries suffer the most. The report's findings stress the importance of addressing these disparities to mitigate the health impacts of air pollution on the most vulnerable groups.

Call to Action

UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Kitty van der Heijden called attention to the long-term consequences of inaction, stating, "Our inaction is having a huge negative impact on future generations." This statement highlights the critical need for immediate and sustained efforts to reduce air pollution and protect public health.


The "State of Global Air" report serves as a wake-up call for policymakers, health professionals, and the global community. With air pollution posing a significant threat to young lives, especially in underdeveloped regions, concerted action is required to combat this silent killer. Implementing effective pollution control measures, improving air quality, and prioritizing the health of vulnerable populations can help mitigate the devastating impact of air pollution on children and future generations.


  1. Health Effects Institute (HEI), "State of Global Air" Report, 2024.
  2. UNICEF statements and contributions to the report.

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