Environmental Pollution and Children’s Health

World Environment Day was celebrated on June 5. In connection with this event, we offer you to see how environmental pollution affects our health and the health of our children.

Children in Nature

The impact of the environment on human health is global. According to World Health Organization, 24% of disease burden and 23% of all deaths can be attributed to environmental factors.

The official website of the World Health Organization informs that large-scale and global risks of adverse environmental impact on human health include climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion, loss of biodiversity, changes in hydrological systems and the availability of freshwater, land degradation, and strain in the systems that produce food products.

WHO experts emphasize that a healthy, safe and protecting environment is particularly important to children – to ensure their normal growth, development, and health. Almost a third of the 9 million annual deaths among children under five years is in one way or another connected with the unfavorable influence of the environment, which causes various serious illnesses, ranging from poisoning and infections to cancer. These risks are also exacerbated by bad social and economic conditions in some countries: conflicts, poverty, and malnutrition.

The Environment Facts

Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death among children under five years – almost one in five such deaths is attributed to diarrhea. About 88% of these deaths are because of unsafe water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene.

About 1 million children die each year from acute respiratory infections (including pneumonia) caused by indoor air pollution (as a result of inhaling secondhand tobacco smoke or because of burning solid fuels). Cases of asthma are rapidly increasing among children. Its development is provoked by such environmental factors as house dust mites, secondhand smoke, mold, and pollen.

In some developing regions of the world, more than one-third of all children are exposed to elevated levels of lead. Lead poisoning can affect children’s brain development. It may increase the risk of problems in behavior and learning, as well as the development of cardiovascular diseases later in life.

Unsafe use, storage and disposal of pesticides are the main causes of acute poisoning. Chronic exposure to pesticides at low concentrations can cause neurological, reproductive and other consequences for children, as well as influence their development.

Other substances that are dangerous for children include: mercury (it is found in some kinds of fatty fish that is eaten by the child’s mother and is particularly dangerous for the fetus and the newborn; it is also found in some herbal medicines and tooth powders), aflatoxins (these are toxic compounds produced by the fungi that infect food products; the major sources of exposure are corn and peanuts).

WHO experts note that appropriately targeted interventions can significantly contribute to prevention of the risks connected with the environment. Up to 13 million deaths worldwide could be prevented every year by providing a healthier environment.

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