Children's environmental health: intergenerational equity in action—a civil society perspective

Mariann Lloyd-Smith, Bro Sheffield-Brotherton
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 2008, 1140: 190-200
Since World War II, approximately 80,000 new commercial synthetic chemicals have been released into the environment, with approximately 1500 new chemicals released annually. Most of these have not been adequately tested for their impacts on human health or their particular impacts on children and the developing fetus. Yet, children are exposed to hazardous chemicals through residues in their food, indoor and outdoor air pollution, and through household products and contaminated house dust. Many of these synthetic chemicals are persistent and bio-accumulative, remaining in the human body long after exposure. Developing fetuses acquire toxic chemicals that have bioaccumulated in the mother's body and readily cross the placental barrier. Babies are now born with many man-made chemicals in their small bodies. Newborns take in more through breast milk or formula. There are no tests to assess the combined impacts of the "chemical soup" to which children are exposed. WHO, UNICEF, and UNEP have reported a growing number of children's health impacts caused by exposure to hazardous chemicals, including asthma, birth defects, hypospadias, behavioral disorders, learning disabilities, autism, cancer, dysfunctional immune systems, neurological impairments, and reproductive disorders. WHO states that approximately 3 million children under the age of five die every year due to environmental hazards, and this is not limited to developing countries. All children, both in the developing and developed world are affected by exposure to hazardous chemicals. In 2004, the European Union's Ministerial Conference on Children's Environmental Health identified air pollution, unsafe water conditions, and lead exposure as the main culprits in the death and disabling of children in Europe. The conference found that by reducing exposure to hazardous chemicals, the lives of many children could be saved. The key issues in children's environmental health and potential policy and management remedies are examined from both national (Australian) and international perspectives.

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