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Science

Pollution Responsible For a Quarter of Deaths of Young Children, Says WHO (theguardian.com) 87

More than 1 in 4 deaths of children under 5 years of age are attributable to unhealthy environments. Every year, environmental risks -- such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, second-hand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and inadequate hygiene -- take the lives of 1.7 million children under 5 years, say two new WHO reports. The Guardian adds: "A polluted environment is a deadly one -- particularly for young children," says Dr Margaret Chan, director-general of the WHO. "Their developing organs and immune systems -- and smaller bodies and airways -- make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water." The harm from air pollution can begin in the womb and increase the risk of premature birth. After birth, air pollution raises the risk of pneumonia, a major cause of death for under fives, and of lifelong lung conditions such as asthma. It may also increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer in later life.
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Pollution Responsible For a Quarter of Deaths of Young Children, Says WHO

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  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @02:06PM (#53986259)

    indoor and outdoor air pollution, second-hand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and inadequate hygiene

    This last one doesn't seem like it really fits in with the others too well. Certainly impoverished people may not necessarily be able to afford the chemicals needed for good hygiene, or they might lack the education to know why hygiene is important, but impoverished people in countries with good anti-pollution policies and with otherwise strong economies may also have problems with hygiene and possibly for the same reasons.

    • 45% of all child deaths are simply down to malnutrition [who.int].

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      "Hygiene" may not just be about bathing and washing, but also defective equipment, like refrigerators with inconsistent temperature, washing machines with mold in them because they don't drain properly, toilets that only half flush, and corroding pipes that deliver tainted water.

    • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @02:11PM (#53986285)

      It's so they can include natural dirty water, Malaria and other parasite deaths in the number and make a nice inflammatory headline.

    • This last one doesn't seem like it really fits in with the others too well.

      Hygiene and sanitation have overlapping definitions with a slightly different basis. Sanitation is about provision of services and hygiene is about using them.

      e.g:
      Sanitation: Not having a functioning sewer / waste water system.
      Hygiene: Shitting on your own lawn regardless of any provision for sewer / waste water.

      Hygiene isn't just about washing your hands, but it's general cleanliness practices. You can have either without the other. E.g. if you have no waste water system, then the hygienic approach would b

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Especially considering they are lumping poor hygiene and lack of sanitation (aka "being poor") with air pollution

  • This means relatively fewer deaths from famine and disease. I dare hope that someday accidents will become the #1 killer of children.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      When we get to that point, we'll have a world filled with helicopter parents.

    • I thought accidents were the #1 cause of children.
  • by Wrath0fb0b ( 302444 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @02:20PM (#53986333)

    Yes, pollution is bad for your health. In no way is that a false statement.

    At the same time, living in a pre-industrial society is also very bad for your health [nationalarchives.gov.uk]. As it living in a poorer society [blogspot.com] for a number of important reasons.

    And since (unfortunately) we cannot yet have an industrial society without some pollution, it's disingenuous to say that pollution causes those deaths because we don't know if reducing it, and thereby reducing our output, would be beneficial or harmful at each margin. It's somehow implying that the pollution isn't accepted as part of trade-off -- or that we intentionally pollute with no side benefit -- which is ludicrous.

    Of course, by the same vein that not all polluting activities are harmful on the margin, not all are beneficial on the margin either. Clearcutting rainforest to make room for banana groves is almost certainly a net harm. Burning natural gas to electrify rural areas that didn't previously have power is almost certainly a net gain. In between there's a whole realm of less obvious answers.

    There's a future where all our power comes from nuclear and renewable and all our food is grown or synthesized on a small amount of land. We aren't there yet, and so we have to pick and chose.

    • While the article doesn't make clear, but I suspect most of these deaths are in 3rd world countries that aren't industrialized where unchlorinated water and indoor wood fires are common and are much worse then pollution caused by industry.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      And since (unfortunately) we cannot yet have an industrial society without some pollution, it's disingenuous to say that pollution causes those deaths because we don't know if reducing it, and thereby reducing our output, would be beneficial or harmful at each margin. It's somehow implying that the pollution isn't accepted as part of trade-off -- or that we intentionally pollute with no side benefit -- which is ludicrous.

      Well it would be ludicrous, if that's what anyone was saying ... excuse me, somehow implying. This is what is known as a straw man argument.

      You advocate making a trade-off between pollution and its benefits. I agree. But if you want to make a rational trade-off, it's necessary to quantify the costs empircially. Which is not to say this study is correct in its conclusions; it almost certainly gets some things wrong, because studies like this are never perfect.

      But undertaking a study like this does not so

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yes it does because if you listen to any liberal talk about these article the first thing out of their mouth is how XYZ ought to stop polluting so much because the pollution is bad and it kills people. I have NEVER heard a person in the media cover a story like this and come to the conclusion that while the pollution does kill people, the number of people saved by the pollution causing activities is much higher and therefore further analysis is required. NEVER EVER EVER has that happened. The "real world

        • by hey! ( 33014 )

          Pollution IS bad. It DOES kill people. And no people are "saved" by pollution. People are saved by the economic products, the by product of which is pollution.

          Pollution is simply not desirable, as you seem to think.

          • Reading failure. The GP wrote "people saved by the pollution causing activities", not just 'people are "saved" by pollution' as you claimed.

            The problem you both are complaining about is context dropping.

    • While I agree with your main point, I think these types of articles are important for people to realize the costs of pollution. The reality is that the balance between the people and the corporations is heavily stacked in favor of the corporations.

      In more detail, companies have no incentive to control their pollution, so the government has to step in. It's a classic tragedy of the commons. As we can see, the corporations just buy off the politicians and the people do not know to fight. Ironically, in

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      And since (unfortunately) we cannot yet have an industrial society without some pollution, it's disingenuous to say that pollution causes those deaths

      Not at all, it's absolutely correct. I take your point, but actually there is a huge gap between the kind of industrial revolution that the West had and what we can do relatively cleanly now. It is simply not necessary to go through as much pain as we did, with the benefit of modern technology and hindsight.

  • A recent New Zealand study [nih.gov] found that the risks of death from second hand smoke is between the risk of getting melanoma and dying in a car crash.

    So unless you want to start banning cars and going out in the sun, STFU about casual second hand smoke. Walking through that cloud on your way into the restaurant isn't as dangerous as driving to get there. I'm not suggestion people should take steps on their own to avoid it or not expose their children to it, but enough is enough from the nanny state governments

    • by GreatDrok ( 684119 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @02:54PM (#53986553) Journal

      "A recent New Zealand study found that the risks of death from second hand smoke is between the risk of getting melanoma and dying in a car crash.
      "

      Interesting that you picked the NZ study and not one from somewhere else because here Melanoma and car accidents are both big killers due to us having far stronger sun, very low levels of ozone meaning we have the highest incidence of melanoma in the world: http://www.stuff.co.nz/nationa... [stuff.co.nz]

      Also, the driving standards here are terrible as are the roads, and there's a lot of old cars still in use with the average age of cars being 14+ years meaning they lack a lot of the modern safety features and given that's an average, there are plenty of cars that are 30+ years old still running around. We have a very high accident rate and many deaths on the roads as a result of poor driving and old vehicles.

      Put those together and then consider that smoking sits in between them and then think, how safe is smoking? It is already illegal to smoke in a car with children and there's a push for the country to be completely smoke free by 2025 because that's at least something that can be done to improve health as we can't fix the ozone layer, turn off the sun, or train drivers to not be crap behind the wheel apparently.

      As for pollution, NZ is 85% renewable energy so that's nice, but transport makes up a lot of our pollution and the air in cities like Auckland is very poor at some times of the year due to traffic fumes along with a large amount of wood burners. There's very little support to move to EVs (I have one) or to encourage no-polluting heating (I have heatpumps) and there are even efforts to penalise those who generate their own electricity (I have solar) so it is pretty poor in the face of the whole clean green New Zealand image.

      • by hawkfish ( 8978 )

        Also, the driving standards here are terrible as are the roads, and there's a lot of old cars still in use with the average age of cars being 14+ years meaning they lack a lot of the modern safety features and given that's an average, there are plenty of cars that are 30+ years old still running around. We have a very high accident rate and many deaths on the roads as a result of poor driving and old vehicles.

        While visiting the South Island a few years back, I heard from a cop that a big problem with driving down there is tourists. Specifically, people who fly in from mainland China on cheap flights that arrive late at night. They then get into a car with no sleep and drive several more hours to their hotel, often forgetting what side of the road they are supposed to be on. Bad Things often ensue.

        • "I heard from a cop that a big problem with driving down there is tourists."

          There's a degree of that to be certain, but also local driving standards are pitiful as well. The tourist crashes get noticed but there's a pretty constant rate of locals losing control on corners, or running into the back of other cars due to insufficient following distances. This has nothing to do with driving on the wrong side of the road, and everything to do with people being too bunched up and speeding. Local drivers frequentl

    • by by (1706743) ( 1706744 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @02:58PM (#53986575)
      One of the primary differences, though, is that you choose to get into a car, or to put on/not put on sunscreen/etc.

      Second-hand smoke, air pollution, etc., are unavoidable in some areas (and "move to the middle of an uninhabited swath of land" isn't really a viable option for some people). It's the difference between getting bit by your own dog and getting bit by someone else's.
    • Yes, that pesky nanny state government. Always trying to keep people from getting cancer. Those bastards!
  • Gosh (Score:5, Funny)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @02:30PM (#53986397) Journal

    Strangely, 3/4 of all childhood deaths are due to pristine lands without any industry or modernity.

  • WHO says that 3.3 million deaths linked to indoor air pollution.

    WHO Assistant Director-General Family, Women and Children's Health says "Poor women and children pay a heavy price from indoor air pollution since they spend more time at home breathing in smoke and soot from leaky coal and wood cook stoves."

    Providing electricity or gas mechanisms for cooking could solve those 3.3 million deaths. But that simply requires some level of economic development.

    • there might be some effort to work on these other big problems.

      But that might make more CO2, so forget about it.

    • The Chevrolet Volt second generation gets some 50+ miles of electric range per charge, with a 4-hour charge time at 240V, 3.3kW (most electric vehicles charge at 6kW). 90% of all miles driven in Chevrolet Volt first-generation vehicles (38 mile electric range) are electric. PHEVs with 50-100 miles of range, even with only a 3.3kW continuous-load charger (capable of taking 40kW or so from regen for maybe 30 seconds, but not 6.6kW from wall for several minutes), will eliminate most of the outdoor air pollu

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I would love to see the breakdown. Lack of access to clean water is probably the #1 cause of infant in 3rd world shitholes. How convenient to lump "make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water." together to fit the agenda

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      A breakdown would be useful. But I'll bet that most of the air pollution mortality is due to open cooking fires inside huts. Also a third world problem.

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