Global & Disaster Medicine

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WHO: Don’t pollute my future! The impact of the environment on children’s health


Don’t pollute my future! The impact of the environment on children’s health

Cover: Don’t pollute my future! The impact of the environment on children’s health


In 2015, 5.9 million children under age five died. The major causes of child deaths globally are pneumonia, prematurity, intrapartum-related complications, neonatal sepsis, congenital anomalies, diarrhoea, injuries and malaria. Most of these diseases and conditions are at least partially caused by the environment. It was estimated in 2012 that 26% of childhood deaths and 25% of the total disease burden in children under five could be prevented through the reduction of environmental risks such as air pollution, unsafe water, sanitation and inadequate hygiene or chemicals.

Children are especially vulnerable to environmental threats due to their developing organs and immune systems, smaller bodies and airways. Harmful exposures can start as early as in utero. Furthermore, breastfeeding can be an important source of exposure to certain chemicals in infants; this should, however, not discourage breastfeeding which carries numerous positive health and developmental effects (4). Proportionate to their size, children ingest more food, drink more water and breathe more air than adults. Additionally, certain modes of behaviour, such as putting hands and objects into the mouth and playing outdoors can increase children’s exposure to environmental contaminants.


WHO: Inheriting a sustainable world: Atlas on children’s health and the environment



More than a decade after WHO published Inheriting the world: The atlas of children’s health and the environment in 2004, this new publication presents the continuing and emerging challenges to children’s environmental health.

This new edition is not simply an update but a more detailed review; we take into account changes in the major environmental hazards to children’s health over the last 13 years, due to increasing urbanization, industrialization, globalization and climate change, as well as efforts in the health sector to reduce children’s environmental exposures. Inheriting a sustainable world? Atlas on children’s health and the environment aligns with the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, launched in 2015, in stressing that every child deserves the opportunity to thrive, in safe and healthy settings.

This book seeks to promote the importance of creating sustainable environments and reducing the exposure of children to modifiable environmental hazards. The wide scope of the SDGs offers a framework within which to work and improve the lives of all children. To this end, we encourage further data collection and tracking of progress on the SDGs, to show the current range of global environmental hazards to children’s health and identify necessary action to ensure that no one is left behind.

E-Waste: What is it and how is it impacting our world?


“…..electronic or e-waste were posing great dangers for children.

”Most of our old computers and electronic material will end up in some place in the African continent where then you put a group of moms to remove certain pieces of that material, particularly heavy metals to recycle them for making some dollars,” she [Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health] said. “The problem is that the mothers will go there with their own children.”

She added that exposing children to toxins can lead to reduced intelligence, attention deficits, lung damage and cancer.

Electronic and electrical waste is forecast to increase by 19% between 2014 and 2018, to 50 million metric tons by 2018…..”

Environmental pollution kills more than 1 in 4 children under the age of five every year – that’s 1.7 million children worldwide.


“…..air pollution is the biggest killer and is responsible for 6.5 million premature deaths every year, including nearly 600,000 deaths among children under age five……”


12/6/1907-The worst mining disaster in American history: In West Virginia’s Marion County, an explosion in a network of mines in Monongah kills 361 coal miners.

History Channel


Illinois: An explosion caused by a gas leak in Canton killed one person, and injured another 11 people

ABC News

  • one of the individuals died in the ER

Central Great Lakes sector loop


The Global Burden of Disease: Air pollution is the fourth top cause of death globally, after poor diet, high blood pressure and smoking.

NY Times

  • “In December 1873, London was blanketed for a week in a yellow fog so thick that people could not see their feet.   Some 780 people died.
  • “…..roughly 6.5 million people died from both indoor and outdoor air pollution in 2015. Two million of them died in India. Deaths from outdoor air pollution have risen to 4.2 million in 2015 from 3.5 million in 1990…..”
  • “….In England…in 1952…..another heavy smog episode — this time from coal-burning fireplaces and cooking ranges — left as many as 12,000 dead…..”


Climate Change is now: “…The inundation of the coast has begun. The sea has crept up to the point that a high tide and a brisk wind are all it takes to send water pouring into streets and homes….”

NY Times

“Sunny Day Flooding”

Coastline Change 1984


Coastline Change 2014


A study of Nairobi pollution in 2015: The amount of cancer-causing elements in the air within the city is 10 X higher than the threshold recommended by the WHO

The Guardian

WHO Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database (update 2016)

More than 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed the World Health Organization (WHO) limits. While all regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income cities are the most impacted.

According to the latest urban air quality database, 98% of cities in low- and middle income countries with more than 100 000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines. However, in high-income countries, that percentage decreases to 56%.

In the past two years, the database – now covering 3000 cities in 103 countries – has nearly doubled, with more cities measuring air pollution levels and recognizing the associated health impacts.

As urban air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases for the people who live in them.


New Delhi has long been covered with smog, but concerns escalated in early 2014, when the W.H.O. study ranked New Delhi the worst.

NY Times

**  “…..The Delhi High Court asked the government to take action to improve the air, saying that living in New Delhi was like “living in a gas chamber.”….”



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