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Heal Toxics is a member of the International POPs Elimination Network

This website provides resources on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) such as pesticides, dioxins, PCBs, and wastes. Valuable examples of community monitoring of health and environmental impacts of toxic chemicals are also furnished.

Further, there is an entire section devoted to chemical safety in its proper socio-political context or in relation to issues such as globalization and people's empowerment.

 

WHO talks up scale of environment-health risks

by Environment Daily

One-third of all child deaths in Europe are caused by the environment, the World Health Organisation (WHO) claimed on Friday. The statement represents a final bid to grab media attention before ministerial talks on environment and health in Budapest this week, the centrepiece of which will be adoption of a children's health and environment action plan for Europe (Cehape).

According to the new research, between 1.8% and 6.4% of all deaths among European children up to 4 is caused by outdoor air pollution by fine particulates. Some 4.6% of deaths in the same group is attributed to indoor air pollution by smoke from solid fuel burning. A further 5.3% of deaths in children up to 14 is attributed to dirty water or sanitation.

Using a parallel measure of disability-adjusted life years (dalys), the report estimates lower relative importance for indoor air pollution and dirty water and sanitation at 3.1% and 3.5% of all childhood deaths respectively. However, it attributes 1.4% of all dalys in the 0-4 age group to poisoning by the heavy metal lead.

Combined, these environmental risk factors add up to between 12% and 16% of all child deaths. The researchers arrive at their overall estimate of 34% of deaths "due to environment" by including injuries of all kinds, ranging from traffic accidents to falls and drowning, suicide to violence. All such injuries are estimated to be responsible for 22.6% of deaths in children up to 19, and 19% of dalys.

"This is the biggest study ever done on the link between child health and the environment," a WHO spokesperson told Environment Daily. In a statement, the UN agency described the results as "devastating" and "ominous".

It is unclear whether there is general agreement that estimates of "environmental" health risks should properly include injuries, as the WHO study does. The EU environment and health strategy Scale launched last year does not. In proposals for a Scale action plan earlier this month, the Commission referred to the WHO study as showing that one-sixth rather than one-third of child deaths are due to environmental factors (ED 10/06/04).

The WHO report warns Europe's ministers that child-specific legislation is needed if children are to be protected from environmental risks. It claims the fact that "children are not just 'little adults'" has previously been ignored by policy makers..
However, the study also stresses the difficulty of establishing exact figures for environment-linked child deaths. Challenges faced include differing absolute numbers of children in the regions surveyed, and a reliance on available data.

 

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