Background: Chronic diseases are increasing among children in Latin America.
Objective and methods: To examine environmental risk factors for chronic disease in Latin American children and to develop a strategic initiative for control of these exposures, the World Health Organization (WHO) including the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Collegium Ramazzini, and Latin American scientists reviewed regional and relevant global data.
Results: Industrial development and urbanization are proceeding rapidly in Latin America, and environmental pollution has become widespread. Environmental threats to children's health include traditional hazards such as indoor air pollution and drinking-water contamination; the newer hazards of urban air pollution; toxic chemicals such as lead, asbestos, mercury, arsenic, and pesticides; hazardous and electronic waste; and climate change. The mix of traditional and modern hazards varies greatly across and within countries reflecting industrialization, urbanization, and socioeconomic forces.
Conclusions: To control environmental threats to children's health in Latin America, WHO, including PAHO, will focus on the most highly prevalent and serious hazards-indoor and outdoor air pollution, water pollution, and toxic chemicals. Strategies for controlling these hazards include developing tracking data on regional trends in children's environmental health (CEH), building a network of Collaborating Centres, promoting biomedical research in CEH, building regional capacity, supporting development of evidence-based prevention policies, studying the economic costs of chronic diseases in children, and developing platforms for dialogue with relevant stakeholders.