Findings: The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health found that pollution - air, water, soil, and chemical pollution - was responsible in 2016 for 940,000 deaths in children worldwide, two-thirds of them in children under the age of 5. Pollution is inequitably distributed, and the overwhelming majority of pollution-related deaths in children occurred in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Most were due to respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases caused by polluted air and water. Pollution is linked also to multiple non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in children including low birth weight, asthma, cancer and neurodevelopmental disorders, and these diseases are on the rise. The full impact of pollution, especially chemical pollution on the global burden of pediatric disease is not yet known, but almost certainly is undercounted because patterns of chemical exposure are not well charted and the potential toxicity of many chemical pollutants has not been characterized. The list of pediatric NCDs attributed to pollution will likely expand as the health effects of newer chemical pollutants are better defined and additional associations between pollution and disease are discovered.
Conclusion: Pollution prevention presents a major, largely unexploited opportunity to improve children's health and prevent NCDs, especially in LMICs. Failure to incorporate pollution prevention into NCD control programs is a major missed opportunity for disease prevention.
Keywords: Children's environmental health;; Global health;; Non-communicable diseases;; Pollution;; Prevention.
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