You'd want to be just about anywhere but the Indian capital of New Delhi today. Smog choked the city and triggered warnings that even healthy people were at risk of respiratory problems. Air pollution typically peaks in Delhi at this time of the year, driven in part by firecrackers burned to celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of light, which fell on Sunday this year.
But it's not just India that has an air pollution problem. A report published today by the United Nations Children's Fund found that 300 million children in the world breathe highly toxic air, many of them based in South Asia. That's almost one in seven children inhaling air that has pollution levels six or more times higher than what international guidelines consider safe. UNICEF's report comes a week before the UN's COP 22 climate conference in Morocco, where the agency is calling for world leaders to cut air pollution in their countries.
"Air pollution is a major contributing factor in the deaths of around 600,000 children under five every year — and it threatens the lives and futures of millions more every day," UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake noted in a preview of the report.
A looming US election that keeps getting dirtier, the nuclear potential of North Korea, wars in the Middle East and Ukraine are no doubt worthy of the loud headlines you'll read today. But we should read and reread these two UN statistics: 300 million kids poisoned by the air they breathe, 600,000 facing death. Pollution is an insidious killer that too long has gone by unnoticed.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY
- Lebanon Parliament tries to elect a president for the 46th time in two years.
- Pope Francis in Sweden to commemorate 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's Reformation.
- French electrician accused of stealing 271 Picassos to appear before court of appeal.