Environmental pollution can be simply, if somewhat in general, defined as the existence in the environment of an agent which is potentially detrimental to either the environment or human health. Statistical studies reveal that environmental risks take their utmost toll on children. According to a report of World Health Organization (WHO) published on 6 March 2017, unhealthy environment is the reason behind More than 1 in 4 deaths of children under 5 years of age. Another two new WHO reports state awful information that each year, environmental risks like indoor and outdoor air pollution, second-hand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and inadequate hygiene take the lives of 1.7 million children under 5 years. The first report, Inheriting a Sustainable World: Atlas on Children’s Health and the Environment reveals that a huge segment of the most frequent reasons of death among children aged 1 month to 5 years are diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia which can be prevented by interventions acknowledged to diminish environmental risks, such as access to safe water and clean cooking fuels. Detrimental exposures can start even in the mother’s wombs that clearly boost the risk of premature birth. Furthermore, when infants and pre-school goings are exposed to indoor and outdoor air pollution and second-hand smoke they are also exposed to an augmented risk of pneumonia in childhood at the same time along with increased risk of chronic respiratory diseases as asthma. Exposure to air pollution may also amplify their lifelong danger of heart disease, stroke and cancer. “A polluted environment is a deadly one – particularly for young children,” says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water.”
A companion report, don’t pollute my future! The impact of the environment on children’s health provides an inclusive summary of the environment’s impact on children’s health, illustrating the scale of the challenge which is very much alarming and reveals that most of the reasons of child death are directly and indirectly linked to environmental pollution. According to the report-
- 570,000 children under 5 years expire from respiratory infections, every year such as pneumonia, attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution, and second-hand smoke.
- Every year 361 000 children under 5 years die because of diarrhea, as a result of poor access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene.
- 270,000 children die every year during their first month of life from conditions, including prematurity, which could be prevented through access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene in health facilities as well as reducing air pollution.
- Malaria is responsible for 200,000 deaths of children under 5 years each year which could be prevented through environmental measures, for instance reducing breeding sites of mosquitoes or covering drinking-water storage.
- 200,000 children under 5 years every year die from unintentional injuries attributable to the environment, such as poisoning, falls, and drowning.
Apart from the direct sufferings children are also exposed to dangerous chemicals in the course of food, water, air and products around them. Fluoride, lead and mercury pesticides like chemicals which are widely used in industries, persistent organic pollutants, and others in manufactured goods, ultimately find their way into the food chain. Another name in the list of harmful contaminant is electronic and electrical waste. The production of electronic and electrical waste is forecasted to increase by 19% between 2014 and 2018, to 50 million metric tons by 2018 which is actually a threat for environment as well as child health. Electronic and electrical waste like old mobile phones that is inappropriately recycled can show the way to reduced intelligence, attention deficits, lung damage, and cancer in children if they get exposed to it.
Unfortunately even in house children cannot be said as free from the hazards pollution. Due to the lack of proper sanitation and safe water which are actually basic needs for living children are at an augmented risk of disease like diarrhea. Another reason is the access of smoky materials specially use of unclean fuels, such as coal or dung for cooking and heating, children are at an increased risk of pneumonia.
Now if we consider the whole scenario of environmental pollution in a nutshell it can be said that along with climate change temperatures and levels of carbon dioxide are going up which results in pollen intensification and the consequence is increased rates of asthma in children .Statistical reports state that worldwide, 11–14% of children aged 5 years and older at present report asthma symptoms and it is shocking that 44% of these are associated with environmental exposures. Air pollution, second-hand tobacco smoke, and indoor mould and dampness are responsible for making asthma and other respiratory tract disorders more severe in children.
Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health says “Investing in the removal of environmental risks to health, such as improving water quality or using cleaner fuels, will result in massive health benefits.”So it is high time we should think about ‘which environment we are leaving for the future generation?’It is our responsibility to provide a pollution free environment for them so that they can live a healthy life. Each of us should make effort from our position to fulfill our duty and our collective endeavor can create the difference and ensure a healthy environment in future.
Nusrat Fatemee is a graduate pharmacist in Bangladesh. She has completed her graduation under department of Pharmacy at East West University. She can be reached at email@example.com
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