Presented by Philip Landrigan, MD
Despite an opening slam at the city of Cleveland (Sorry, Drs. Stormorken and Johnson!), keynote speaker Dr. Philip Landrigan gave a well received talk on the worldwide impact of pollution on children’s health.
Pollution, which can come from household sources, the air, soil, water, or occupational toxins, is estimated to kill nine million people per year worldwide. This is three times the number of deaths attributable to TB, AIDS and malaria combined, and 15 times more than the deaths from all wars, terrorism and other violence. This heavy burden falls disproportionately on low and middle-income countries, and particularly affects the children in these areas.
Children have greater exposure proportional to body mass than adults, a diminished ability to detoxify many chemicals and a heightened biological vulnerability to chemicals which disrupt development. These include lead, alcohol, and diethylstibesterol among others. The effect of pollution on health results in an up to 2% decrease in GDP in low- and middle income countries. Up to 7% of healthcare costs in rapidly developing countries is used for treating the issues attributable to pollution.
The good news is that solutions to these problems exist. In high-income countries progress is being made to decrease pollution by switching to renewable energy, public and active transport, and clean and green technology. Progress is still lacking in low- and middle-income countries, in large part due to a lack of political will and resistance by powerful vested interests. Work is ongoing worldwide to engage UN agencies and government officials, making pollution prevention a priority in all countries and to continue research to quantify the burden of pollution on our societies.