The repercussions of climate change can be seen everywhere--including in
the well-being of our children. "The American Academy of Pediatrics
calls climate change a 'rising public health threat to all children
in this country and around the world,' which is why the organization
has issued an official policy statement that calls for doctors to do their
part in helping our planet and work toward children's safety from
environmental hazards," says
Maureen Villasenor, MD, a pediatrician at
St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group.
The academy believes the issue of climate change has special urgency because
its resulting problems--such as poor air quality, hotter temperatures
and an increase in natural disasters such as storms--take a heavy toll
on youngsters. According to the statement, which was published in
Pediatrics, the World Health Organization says children younger than 5 are afflicted
with almost 90 percent of diseases caused by climate change.
The statement also notes that children are affected directly by climate
change--such as being injured during a storm--as well as indirectly, citing
as an example pollen allergies, which can be exacerbated as higher temperatures
increase how long the allergy season lasts. Among the other evidence of
climate change's impact on children, as included in the statement:
- A projected increase in heat-related deaths among infants younger than
- Post-traumatic stress disorder among youths who have survived natural disasters.
- Poorer protein quality of grains such as wheat and rice, which means children
won't get the full nutritional benefits.
- The spread of diseases such as malaria, West Nile virus and diarrheal disorders
among children in developing countries.
- Polluted air and hotter temperatures, which affect allergies.
While the statement encourages doctors to work with government leaders
to create change, there are other ways families can take action, Dr. Villasenor
says. "We can all do our part to help the environment in all sorts
of ways. Teach your children how to recycle, curb consumption of goods,
find ways to cut down on energy use, be prepared for weather-related natural
disasters and contact your local representatives about environmental bills.
Not only will you be working toward a healthier planet for your children's
future, you will also strive to make your children healthier now."
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