Children's environmental health

Children playing on the beach at low tide in Hangan Village, Buka, Papua New Guinea
WHO/Y. Shimizu

  • In 2012 1.7 million deaths in children under five were attributable to the environment.
  • These included 570 000 deaths from respiratory infections, 361 000 deaths from diarrhoea, 270,000 deaths from neonatal conditions, 200 000 deaths from malaria and 200 000 deaths from unintentional injuries.
  • Environmental risks that children are particularly vulnerable to include air pollution, inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene, hazardous chemicals and wastes, radiation, climate change as well as emerging threats like e-waste.
  • Reducing environmental risks could prevent 1 in 4 child deaths.

Key materials

These documents highlight the importance of reducing environmentally related health outcomes, and cite strategies for reducing the environmental impact on children of all ages, through creating safe and healthy environments.

Inheriting a sustainable world: Atlas on children’s health and the environment

More than a decade after WHO published Inheriting the world: The atlas of children’s health and the environment in 2004, this new publication presents the continuing and emerging challenges to children’s environmental health.
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Don’t pollute my future! The impact of the environment on children’s health

The major causes of child deaths globally are pneumonia, prematurity, intrapartum-related complications, neonatal sepsis, congenital anomalies, diarrhoea, injuries and malaria. Most of these diseases and conditions are at least partially caused by the environment.
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New publication

Air pollution and child health: prescribing clean air

This report summarizes the latest scientific knowledge on the links between exposure to air pollution and adverse health effects in children.