Children are paying heavily for our neglect of the environment. Environmental problems are disproportionately associated with young children’s health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over 40% of the global burden of disease attributed to environmental risk factors falls on children under five years of age, who account for only 10% of the world’s population.
Children are susceptible because they are growing rapidly. Their immune, respiratory and nervous systems are developing. Exposure to environmental hazards, such as chemicals, may disrupt normal development and cause permanent damage.
Environment and Health Ministers across Europe have stated:
“We are increasingly concerned about the effects on children’s health of unsafe and unhealthy environments. We understand that developing organisms, especially during embryonic and foetal periods and early years of life, are often particularly susceptible, and may be more exposed than adults, to many environmental factors, such as polluted air, chemicals, contaminated and polluted water, food and soil, radiation risks, unhealthy housing, environmental noise, risks related to transport, and the consequences of armed conflict and environmental disasters. Boys and girls may also differ in susceptibility and be differently exposed to environmental factors. We realize that all children suffer from the consequences of polluted and unsafe environments but also that children living in the poorest countries and belonging to the most disadvantaged population groups are at the highest risk. Underdevelopment and poverty are strongly related to the burden of environmentally attributable disease, and this is even truer for children”
From: The Children’s Environmental Health Action Plans (CEHAP) in Europe.
Promote breast feeding, avoidance of smoking and tobacco smoke, clean indoor air, road traffic safety initiatives, as well as safety in the home.
Ensure implementation of WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Support initiatives on education and enforcement of international, European, and national legislation and action that are based on the principles of precaution and sustainable development.