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The World in Medicine
June 12, 2002

Pollution and Child Health

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JAMA. 2002;287(22):2937. doi:10.1001/jama.287.22.2937-JWM20006-2-1

Pollution-related diseases kill millions of children a year, says a new report produced by United Nations (UN) agencies.

Environmental factors such as lack of access to clean drinking water disproportionately affect children, according to the report, which was released as part of last month's United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children. About 5500 children die every day from diseases caused by food and water contaminated with bacteria.

Nearly one third of the global disease burden is the result of environmental factors, and more than 40% of this burden is borne by children under 5 years of age—some 600 million children. Such factors include exposure to toxic chemicals, such as lead (especially from leaded gasoline) and pesticides (a particular risk for the millions of children worldwide who work in agriculture).