Childrens Environmental Health

Children are more susceptible to air pollution

Due to developing immune systems, the fact that they eat, drink and breathe more relative to their body size, and their naturally-explorative behaviors, children are more vulnerable to environmental health risks. Everyone, including lawmakers, needs to be aware of the potential impact that human activities have on children’s health and the steps they can take to protect children's environmental health.

Clean Air Council works to protect children’s environmental health by advocating for policies that reduce pollution and protect children from dangerous toxins and known hazards. These programs include limiting the exposure to school bus emissions through anti-idling campaigns and use of clean diesel technologies; promoting smoke-free homes and workplaces; improving indoor air quality; and distributing information on low-cost mitigation strategies for environmental asthma triggers.

Trends in Children's Environmental Health
Drastic increases in the rates of chronic childhood illnesses are sweeping the United States and rest of the world. While the causes of these increases are not fully understood, they ultimately lie in an interaction of genetics and the environment. The rate of change is of such a high level that it would be unreasonable to attribute it to a major shift in human genetics. More likely, genetic predispositions are coming to light due to increased pressure from the environmental factors. The majority of evidence indicates that, now more than ever, the environment is influencing our health and the health of our children.

  • Nearly 5 million children (7%) in the United States suffer from asthma. The rate of prevalence increased by 74% and the number of children dying from asthma increased threefold between 1979 and 1996.
  • Childhood cancer rates have risen dramatically, with cancers of the Central Nervous System increasing by 25%, incidences of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia increasing by 20%, and an average increase in all cancer rates of 10%. Mortality rates have declined thanks to improved detection and treatment methods.
  • More than 1 million children suffer from irreversible neurological damage from lead poisoning, mostly due to exposure to old paint containing lead. The Center for Disease Control has cited lead exposure as the number one environmental hazard facing children's health.
  • Nearly 1 in 28 babies are born with a birth defect, and birth defects continue to be the leading cause of infant mortality.
  • An estimated 12 million children (17%) in the United States suffer from 1 or more learning, developmental, or behavioral disability.
  • The number of children in Special Education programs classified with learning disabilities has increased approximately 190% since 1977.
  • In recent studies conducted in the states of Minnesota and Washington, pesticide residue was found in urine samples of nearly all children tested.
  • Approximately 1 in 4 Americans live within 4 miles of a hazardous waste site. Parental exposure to pollution, the prenatal environment of the developing fetus, and the health of the child after birth have all been linked.
Royal Dutch Shell has proposed a new natural gas and chemical processing station in Monaca, PA, outside Pittsburgh. The proposed site is currently held by Horsehead Corporation which owns the inactive zinc smelting facility.  The proposed facility, known as a “cracker”, will separate natural gas and chemical feedstocks into different compounds used primarily in the manufacturing of plastics.  Increased hydraulic fracturing and natural gas collection has led to increased ethane available for “cracking”.