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25 April 2006 | Printer friendly

WHO publication on chemical threats to children

In spring 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a new publication entitled “Chemical Safety and Children’s health - Protecting the World’s Children from Harmful Chemicals Exposures”.

The aim of this document is to alert a variety of potential stakeholders to the problem of hazardous chemicals in the global environment and to the reasons why children are particularly vulnerable. The social and economic cost of children’s harmful exposure to chemicals can be high. In addition to direct medical expenses, there are sick days that keep children away from school and their parents away from work, as well as the emotional toll that childhood illness, disability and death takes on families and communities.

The new publication describes recent international recommendations intended to guide efforts to protect children from harmful chemical exposures and suggests strategies and available resources that can help government officials and other stakeholders to prevent harm to children.

Every day children may be exposed to a variety of potentially hazardous chemicals in the air they breathe, in the food and water they consume, in their homes and school and in play areas. WHO estimates that unintentional poisonings annually account for the deaths of more than 35,000 children under age 15. Many more children suffer from illness and disability related to chemical poisonings or chronic exposure to chemical pollutants in their environment.

Governments from around the world have agreed that addressing chemical threats to children’s health should be an integral component of every country’s public health and environment agenda. Individuals, organizations and agencies responsible for protecting children need to become more aware of the threats and take actions to prevent them.

The publication is available in English, French and Spanish, and can be downloaded on the WHO website

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