Environmental Issues for Childrens

More than three million children under five die each year from environment-related causes and conditions. This makes the environment one of the most critical contributors to the global toll of more than ten million child deaths annually - as well as a very important factor in the health and well-being of their mothers.

Polluted indoor and outdoor air, contaminated water, lack of adequate sanitation, toxic hazards, disease vectors, ultraviolet radiation, and degraded ecosystems are all important environmental risk factors for children, and in most cases for their mothers as well. Particularly in developing countries, environmental hazards and pollution are a major contributor to childhood deaths, illnesses and disability from acute respiratory disease, diarrhoeal diseases, physical injuries, poisonings, insect-borne diseases and perinatal infections. Childhood death and illness from causes such as poverty and malnutrition are also associated with unsustainable patterns of development and degraded urban or rural environments

Major environment-related killers in
children under five years of age

  • Diarrhoea kills an estimated 1.6 million children each year, caused mainly by unsafe water and poor sanitation.
  • Indoor air pollution associated with the still-widespread use of biomass fuels kills nearly one million children annually, mostly as a result of acute respiratory infections. Mothers, in charge of cooking or resting close to the hearth after having given birth, are most at risk of developing chronic respiratory disease.
  • Malaria, which may be exacerbated as a result of poor water management and storage, inadequate housing, deforestation and loss of biodiversity, kills an estimated one million children under five annually, mostly in Africa.
  • Unintentional physical injuries, which may be related to household or community environmental hazards, kill nearly 300 000 children annually: 60 000 are attributed to drowning, 40 000 to fires, 16 000 to falls, 16 000 to poisonings, 50 000 to road traffic incidents and over 100 000 are due to other unintentional injuries.

Health-damaging exposure to environmental risks can begin before birth. Lead in air, mercury in food and other chemicals can result in long-term, often irreversible effects, such as infertility, miscarriage, and birth defects. Women's exposure to pesticides, solvents and persistent organic pollutants may potentially affect the health of the fetus. Additionally, while the overall benefits of breastfeeding are recognized, the health of the newborn may be affected by high levels of contaminants in breast milk. Small children, whose bodies are rapidly developing, are particularly susceptible - and in some instances the health impacts may only emerge later in life.

Furthermore, children as young as five years old sometimes work in hazardous settings. Pregnant women living and working in hazardous environments and poor mothers and their children are at a higher risk, as they are exposed to the most degraded environments, are often unaware of the health implications, and lack access to information on potential solutions.

Environmental Issues of China

Environmental Issues of the World

Environmental Issues Worldwide