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Children's environmental health: risks and remedies

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L. Creel
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This policy brief (part of PRB’s Emerging Policy Issues in Population, Health, and Environment series) explores children’s special vulnerability to environmental hazards such as smoke from traditional fuels and from emerging risks such as exposure to an increasing number of hazardous chemicals. The brief outlines the risks and the conditions that increase such risks, and highlights what is being done to address the problem.Findings:while overall child mortality declined by 10% in the 1990s, much remains to be done to protect children from the myriad environmental threats to their healthreducing long-term threats requires that underlying risk factors be addressedover the past 15 years, international, regional, and national attention has focused on environmental hazards’ effect on children’s health. Efforts now need to be made to measure these risks; build and strengthen community, national, regional, and international coalitions to address the problem; and develop policies and programs to prevent and mitigate environmental hazards for children worldwidealthough progress has been made in reducing mortality from environmentally mediated diseases, such as ARIs and diarrheal disease, more needs to be done to prevent these illnesses and to focus on new threats from increased industrialisation, urbanisation, and agricultural commercialisationglobal environmental threats such as climate change may compound many of these issues, and efforts to mitigate certain hazards may create other problems. For instance, efforts to provide more drinking water in Bangladesh resulted in widespread poisoning, since the country’s well water was heavily contaminated with arsenicThe following recommendations for policy makers and planners to address environmental health threats to children are included:encourage the development and support of community-level initiatives to reduce environmental health threats to childrencontinue to raise awareness and provide education about children’s environmental health issuespromote the recognition, assessment, and study of environmental factors that affect children’s health and developmentreduce children’s exposure to pollutants through education, regulation, use of cleaner fuels, and reduction of environmental tobacco smokeinvest in programs to increase access to clean water and sanitation facilities and to promote better hygiene practicesstrengthen interventions to prevent and treat malariareduce children’s exposure to lead, and screen for lead poisoningreduce exposure to harmful pesticides by banning the use of the most toxic chemicalseducating users, and encouraging the use of integrated pest management to minimise the use of pesticidesevaluate and address the plight of children employed at hazardous workplaces