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18 July 2005 | Printer friendly

WHO bids to unburden youth

WHO bids to unburden youth

The World Health Organization has produced figures for the Fourth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health that show the catastrophic effects of environmental factors on children’s health in Europe. A total of 34% of all deaths in the 0-19 years age group in the pan- European region of 52 countries are due to five environmental causes: indoor and outdoor air pollution, unsafe water, lead and injuries. The findings are published in the World Health Organization’s Environmental Burden of Disease (ERB) study.

The analysis shows that 13,000 deaths in the under 5 age-group are due to outdoor air pollution and another 10,000 due to indoor smoke from cooking and heating systems that use solid fuel. Over 5% of all deaths in children under 15 years are due to diarrhoeal disease resulting from poor water and sanitation facilities.

The WHO figures provide estimates of losses to “healthy life years” (DALYs). Lead poisoning, causing brain stunting and other development problems, is responsible for over 1% of these losses to children in the region. Up to 30% of under-5s in urban areas of Europe have elevated levels of lead in their blood.

Dr Roberto Bertollini, Director of Health Determinants Division, WHO Regional Office for Europe says: "Although the report carries ominous warnings, it also opens the door to a healthier future for Europe’s children."

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