Medicina e società
Centro Europeo dell’OMS per l’Ambiente e la Salute, Roma
Key words: Environment, Respiratory disease, Asthma, Neurodevelopmental disorders, Cancer, Air pollution, Environmental tobacco smoke, Lead, Radiation, Pesticides
The main health effects on children of environmental toxicants are reviewed. Children are particularly vulnerable to toxicants due to longer exposures, greater exposures and higher sensitivity of developing organs. Children are exposed to indoor and outdoor air pollution, contaminated food, water and building materials, radiation, and noise. The main health consequences are acute and chronic respiratory diseases, congenital malformations, prematurity and intrauterine growth retardation, neurodevelopmental delay and cancer. Emerging problems include endocrine disruption and immunotoxicity. There is an urgent need to pay specific attention to the health effects of a deteriorated environment on children. Improved risk assessment and monitoring, policies aimed at protecting children by establishing safety standards and by reducing exposures are necessary. Information on real hazards and risks should be disseminated to the public to increase awareness, participation and demand for interventions. Paediatricians should be able to provide appropriate advice to families and to advocate for effective public health and environmental policies.
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