Climate change and air pollution affect children’s health

OLDClimate change affects everyone, but especially children. Their small bodies – and the fact that they grow so quickly, starting in the womb – makes them more vulnerable to toxins, pollution and other things. climate change fallout. Throughout their lives, children also have to deal with more exposure to damage of climate change than adults.

A new one scientific assessment Articles published in New England Journal of Medicine shows how dangerous climate-related threats are to children’s health. Researchers analyzed data on the specific effects of a rapidly warming planet and found that climate change, largely caused by burning coal, oil and natural gas, is damaging. for the mental and physical health of children from the time they are in the womb. childhood — with possible lifelong effects. These dangers threaten children’s health in many ways, from the development of their lungs, to their intellectual abilities, to their mental health. Children from economically and socially disadvantaged backgrounds are particularly affected, but all children are at risk. “It’s not just polar bears on the melting ice sheets,” said study co-author Frederica Perera, director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health. “At the moment, there is a direct harm to the health of children — and their future is certainly at stake.”

Policies that shift countries from fossil fuels to more efficient, renewable energy sources have the potential to improve children’s health, the study authors say. Health professionals should also acknowledge and learn about the health risks of climate change in order to better help their younger patients. “We know how to do it; we know the alternatives and they are working in different countries,” says Perera. We know it works.”

Here are three major threats that stem from climate change and threaten all children worldwide, according to new research.

Air pollution

Air pollution affects children’s health in many ways. Through exposure to polluted air, children breathe in the fine particulate matter produced when cars, factories, and other sources burn fossil fuels. Exposure to air pollution to the fetus during the mother’s pregnancy has also associated with low birth weight, preterm birth and stillbirth; The scientists hypothesize that it could be caused by air pollution, said Dr. Aaron Bernstein, a pediatrician and interim director of the Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment at Harvard TH. Inflammation makes it difficult for nutrients to pass to the fetus. Chan School of Public Health (who was not involved in the new study). “Particle pollution is a major cause of infant mortality, including stillbirth and infant death,” says Bernstein. Air pollution can also be harmful the development and functioning of children’s lungs, and puts them at risk for diseases such as respiratory infections, bronchitis and asthma.

Other research shows that air pollution can adversely affect children’s brains starting in utero. Maternal exposure to air pollution particles “can be directly toxic to the developing brain” of the fetus, Perera said. “They can cross the placenta.” Research review published year Cognitive and behavioral neuroscience in 2020 includes multiple studies linking air pollution exposure to lower cognitive function in children. Other research has found a link between pollution exposure and symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Pollutants also contribute to climate change – thus increasing air pollution by promoting many of the conditions that cause wildfires, including heat and drought. And higher temperatures are thought to contribute to the development of ozone, a pollutant that damages the lungs and worsens conditions like asthma.

Low-nutrient foods

Climate change is undermining one of the central foundations for growing children: healthy food. Extreme weather events that destroy food crops, including droughts, floods and higher temperatures, are becoming more common. These can food price increase and make it more scarce. Even if your child eats well, he or she may not get enough nutrients; emerging research shows that high levels of carbon dioxide can make foods less nutritious.

Getting enough calories and essential nutrients is central to ensuring children grow up healthy. “If children are brought up undernourished,” says Bernstein, “their brains don’t develop normally. “It affects every organ.”

Global hunger is already widespread and experts predict it will get worse. By 2021, about 193 million people will be severely food insecure – which the United Nations defines as a food shortage that endangers lives or livelihoods – and around 26 million children are underweight, unhealthy children not having enough weight for height. , follow World food program.

More injuries

A world altered by climate change is even more dangerous for children. Famine, drought and extreme weather events are becoming more common as a result of climate change, as are the violent interpersonal conflicts they tend to create. ; for example, drought caused by climate change is is believed to have contributed to the outbreak of the 2011 war in Syria. On a hotter planet, children more likely to get injured, including displacement; globally, approximately 2.4 million children will be displaced by natural disasters in 2021 alone, according to UNICEF.

Living through trauma as a child is said to be increased risk for mental illnesses such as depression as well as physical conditions such as cancer, asthma, and stroke. Stress in expecting mothers can also be harmful cognitive development of the fetus.

“If your house burned down or flooded by a storm, if you were impoverished because your family’s livelihood was destroyed by the drought – those are adverse childhood events,” says Bernstein. ,” says Bernstein, “and they can accumulate and cause harm precisely over their lifetime. ”

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