UNITED NATIONS, July 29: A new report by the World Health Organisation says that environmental hazards are responsible for the deaths of several million children every year.

The report, titled Principles for Evaluating Health Risks in Children Associated with Exposure to Chemicals, highlights the fact that in children, the stage in their development when exposure occurs may be just as important as the magnitude of the exposure.

It’s WHO’s first ever report focusing on children’s special susceptibility to harmful chemical exposures at different periods of their growth.“Children are not just small adults,” said Dr Terri Damstra, the Geneva-based WHO’s team leader for the Interregional Research Unit.

“Children are especially vulnerable and respond differently from adults when exposed to environmental factors - and this response may differ according to the different periods of development they are going through.”

According to the expert, children’s lungs are not fully developed at birth, or even at the age of eight, and lung maturation may be altered by air pollutants that induce acute respiratory effects in childhood and may be the origin of chronic respiratory disease later in life.

The report points out that air and water contaminants, pesticides in food, lead in soil, as well many other environmental threats which alter the delicate organism of a growing child may cause or worsen disease and induce developmental problems.

Over 30 per cent of the global burden of disease in children can be attributed to environmental factors, the report says.

According to the report, the vulnerability of children is increased in degraded and poor environments. Neglected and malnourished children suffer the most.

One in five children in the poorest parts of the world will not live longer than their fifth birthday - mainly because of environment-related diseases.—APP

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