According to International Labor Organization (ILO), 152 million children worldwide are the victims of child labor, varying from debt bondage, forced labor, slavery, prostitution and illicit activities. Isn’t it shocking to know that when it’s their age to learn and develop, innocent children are being forced to earn and share the load of the household?

Not every work, however, done by a child aged below 14 is counted as child labor. If your child is being a helping hand in performing home errands or assisting you in your family business or rather earning pocket money for its own self after school, it would be wrong to say that the child is the victim of child labor.

Children exposed to working in the hazardous environment in factories, on construction sites, doing heavy duty labor which hinders with their mental as well as physical development, depriving them of their childhood and hampering their basic right to go to school and get the education is what makes them fall prey to child labor.

Though, with the continuous efforts of human welfare organizations and the governments of several developed and developing countries having made stringent laws to curb the child labor, there has been a decline in this reprehensible practice. In India, the child labor had seen an upsurge in 2005 from 2000, only to drop down in the year 2010 as it can be seen below.

But this is not the only atrocity that the children are succumbed to. Did you know that the recent report released by World Health Organization (WHO) says that 9 out of 10 people breathe air contaminated with pollutants worldwide causing 7 million deaths every year? And the children are not unfazed by this predicament either. In fact, they are most vulnerable as their ability to fight with the pollutants is restrained because of their under-developed immune system and lungs.

There have been several instances reported in the past where the negligence towards children being exposed to air pollution while indulged in child labor came to notice. One such incident surfaced during the construction of Nammo Metro in Bangalore*. 30% of the laborers employed at the construction site were children who were exposed to harmful pollutants like carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. What’s more distressing was that there were no safety measures taken or face masks provided to them.

Rajan Poddar, one of the victims of child labor at the site, who was just 12 years old had endured acute breathing problems even when he neither smoked nor drank. It’s not just the case with Rajan but many other children who are put to risk to develop several respiratory ailments, such as bronchitis, asthma and acute cough on daily basis.

On this World Day Against Child Labor, the least we should do for them is to confer them their basic right to breathe – to breathe air free from pollution.

*Metro sites causing health hazards for workers; employing children

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