How climate change and air pollution affect children’s health

° CClimate change affects everyone, but especially children. Their small bodies – and the fact that they grow so fast from the time they are in the womb – make them more vulnerable to toxins, pollution and more. consequences of climate change. Throughout their lives, children also face each other greater exposure to damage of climate change than in adults.

New scientific review article published in New England Medical Journal shows how dangerous climate-related threats to children’s health are. Researchers analyzed data on the specific effects of the rapidly warming planet and found that climate change, caused largely by burning coal, oil and natural gas, harms the mental and physical health of children from the moment they are in the womb to childhood – with potential consequences for life. These dangers threaten many aspects of children’s health, from the development of their lungs, through their intellectual abilities, to their mental health. Socially and economically disadvantaged children are particularly affected, but all children are at risk. “It’s not just polar bears on melting icebergs,” said study co-author Frederica Perera, director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health. “Now there is direct damage to children’s health – and their future is certainly in great danger.”

Policies that divert countries from fossil fuels to renewable, more efficient energy sources are likely to improve children’s health, the study said. Healthcare professionals also need to recognize and learn about the health risks of climate change in order to better help their young patients. “We know how to do it; we know alternatives and they work in different countries, ”says Perera. “We just need to speed up the process … and implement the solutions we know work.”

Here are three major threats posed by climate change that threaten all children around the world, according to a new study.

Polluted air

Air pollution affects children’s health in many ways. Through exposure to polluted air, children breathe fine dust particles created when cars, factories and other sources burn fossil fuels. Exposure to air pollution on the fetus during the mother’s pregnancy was also associated with low birth weight, premature births and stillbirths; scientists suggest that this may be due to the fact that air pollution can lead to inflammation, which makes it difficult for nutrition to reach the fetus, says Dr. Aaron Bernstein, pediatrician and interim director of the Center for Climate, Health and Global Environment at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health (who did not participate in the new study). “Particulate pollution is a source of infant death, including stillbirth and early childhood death,” Bernstein said. Air pollution can also be harmful growth and function of children’s lungs and expose them to a higher risk of conditions such as respiratory infections, bronchitis and asthma.

Other studies show that air pollution can adversely affect the minds of children from the womb. Exposing the mother to airborne particles “can be directly toxic to the developing brain” of her fetus, Perera said. “They are able to cross the placenta.” A study review published in Cognitive and behavioral neurology in 2020, it includes a number of studies linking exposure to air pollution to lower cognitive functions in children. Other studies have found associations between exposure to pollution and symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Pollutants also contribute to climate change – which in turn increases air pollution by fueling many of the conditions that cause forest fires, including heat and drought. Higher temperatures are thought to contribute to the development of ozone, a pollutant that damages the lungs and worsens conditions such as asthma.

Less nutritious food

Climate change is undermining one of the main building blocks for growing children: healthy food. Extreme weather events that destroy food crops, including drought, floods and higher temperatures, are becoming more common. These can raise food prices and made it more sparse. Even when children have enough food, they may still not have enough nutrients; emerging research shows that high levels of carbon dioxide can make food less nutritious.

Getting enough calories and essential nutrients is essential to ensure that children grow up healthy. If children are malnourished, “their brains do not develop normally,” says Bernstein. “It affects every organ.”

Global hunger is already very common and experts predict that it will get worse. In 2021, some 193 million people experienced acute food insecurity – which the UN identifies as life-threatening or life-threatening malnutrition – and about 26 million children suffer from depletion, a condition in which children are underweight to grow up. World Food Program.

More trauma

The world changed by climate change is more dangerous for children. Famine, drought and extreme weather events are becoming more common as a result of climate change, as well as the violent interpersonal conflicts that such disasters typically generate; for example, drought caused by climate change is believed to have contributed to the outbreak of the Syrian war in 2011. Children are on a hotter planet they are more likely to be exposed to trauma, including displacement; worldwide, some 2.4 million children have been displaced by natural disasters alone in 2021, according to UNICEF.

It is believed that experiencing severe trauma as a child increase the risk of both mental illnesses such as depression and physical conditions such as cancer, asthma and stroke. Stress in expectant mothers can also harm their mothers cognitive development of the fetus.

“If your house is burned or flooded by a hurricane, if you are impoverished because your family’s livelihood was destroyed by drought, these are bad childhood events,” says Bernstein, “and they can build up and cause damage throughout life. ”

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