Environmental pollution around the world is negatively affecting children’s health. According to Cesar Chelala at CounterPunch, children comprise almost half of the population of developing countries and most of the deaths reported among youth involve children under five, mostly due to intestinal and respiratory infections. Chelala wrote, “It has been widely demonstrated that children are more susceptible than adults to environmental factors because, among other reasons, they are still growing and their immune systems and detoxification mechanisms are not yet fully developed.” Many contributing factors are at play, including “pollution, ultraviolet radiation, occupational factors, as well as climate and ecosystem changes.”
Millions of children die each year as a result of environmentally-related diseases that could be prevented. Chelala writes, “Their deaths could be prevented by using low-cost and sustainable tools and strategies for improving the environment. In some countries, more than one-third of the disease burden could be prevented by environmental changes.” A World Health Organization study carried out in 23 countries stated that more than ten percent of deaths are due to contaminated water, indoor air pollution, cooking fuel, and other unsafe environmental conditions. Around the world, from local communities to national governments, some are beginning to take the matter seriously, even taking initiatives worldwide with the aim of improving the environment and children’s health.
In Cairo, Egypt, Dr. Laila Kamel has helped girls weave discarded cotton, for education purposes and to sell at a profit. In Qatar, awareness is being raised by changing school curriculum and reaching out to young mothers. In other countries, like Ecuador, in the city of Loja, there were “dumping yards” of garbage which led to the spreading of diseases. After an intensive sensitization and educational campaign, the community played a major role in establishing a landfill and recycling center for a better quality of life.
The cost of cutting down pollution is itself expensive, but it will be good for everyone around the world in the long run. Children’s lives are at stake, and for that to be resolved, positive changes need to be made for a better environment for all. It is worth noting that children themselves are playing an increased role in pushing environmental changes around the world, not as victims, but as agents of social change who want a better future.
There is very little corporate media coverage around this specific issue. Many news outlets fail to report how bad the environment is globally, and what impacts this has on the health of many, especially children. It is often framed as a problem for poorer countries when not outright ignored. However, this is a worldwide problem that needs worldwide attention and action, like the kinds mentioned above. Many are unaware of the extent of this problem, while others are in denial. Everyone needs to be informed about these environmental conditions and our media outlets should report on them widely and without censorship so we can collectively address these challenges head on for a better future for all, especially our children.
Source: Cesar Chelala, “How a Bad Environment Impacts Children’s Health,” CounterPunch, November 14, 2018, https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/11/14/how-a-bad-environment-impacts-childrens-health/.
Student Researcher: Maheen Baig (Diablo Valley College)
Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)