by Mike Barrett, Natural Society: The World Health Organization (WHO) has released some new statistics concerning the dangers posed by air pollution. According to the global health watchdog, environmental pollutants – including unsafe water, lack of sanitation, poor hygiene practices, indoor and outdoor pollution, and injuries – claim the lives of 1.7 million children under 5 years old each year. 
These numbers mean that pollutants are the cause of death for 1 in 4 children 1 month to 5 years old.
The WHO says that the most common causes of deaths among children can be prevented via interventions already available to the communities most affected. Insecticide-treated bed nets (to start), clean cooking fuels, and better access to clean water can prevent some of the deadliest child illnesses, such as diarrhea, malaria, and pneumonia.
Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO director-general, said in a statement:
“A polluted environment is a deadly one — particularly for young children. Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water.”
Infants exposed to indoor or outdoor air pollution, along with second-hand tobacco smoke, are at great risk for pneumonia, as well as asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases for the rest of their lives. These exposures often begin in the womb.
The WHO report also highlights the increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer from exposure to air pollution.