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Air pollution once again linked to rise of health problems in children

Researchers are hoping to open lawmakers’ eyes on this critical health issue

Photo (c) Imgorthand - Getty Images
Air pollution is certainly not a new issue. Fossil fuel emissions have come to be a longstanding environmental concern, as the noxious gases contribute to several negative health consequences.

Though the risks associated with air pollution have long been documented, researchers from the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) analyzed over 200 peer-reviewed studies that have previously explored children’s health risks that come with air pollution to produce some staggering evidence.

“Policies to reduce fossil fuel emissions serve a dual purpose, both reducing air pollution and mitigating climate change, with sizable combined health and economic benefits,” said Dr. Frederica Perera. “However, because only a few adverse outcomes in children have been considered, policymakers and the public have not yet seen the extent of the potential benefits of clean air and climate change policies, particularly for children.”

Assessing the health risks

The researchers analyzed over two hundred studies that spanned nearly two decades to get a comprehensive picture of what children are experiencing due to air pollution. Each paper looked at children’s health after being exposed to the emissions.

The researchers found that children can feel the effects of air pollution from birth, and it can also manifest itself in childhood cancer, impaired development or cognitive abilities, and respiratory illness.

Additionally, the combustion of fossil fuel was also found to be a contributing factor to several other negative health outcomes for children. As the climate continues to change, and natural disasters like flooding, forest fires, intense storms, or droughts happen more frequently, children’s likelihood of compromised mental health, injury, illness, or death has increased.

“There is extensive evidence on the many harms of air pollution on children’s health,” said Dr. Perera. “Our paper presents these findings in a convenient fashion to support clean air and climate change policies that protect children’s health.”

The researchers are hopeful that these findings will influence lawmakers over the long-term, and they hope children’s health will be taken into greater consideration.

A consistent problem

While air pollution has been addressed by legislators in recent years, the effects of fossil fuel emissions are wide-reaching. Most recently, researchers found that air pollution was sending more people to the emergency room with cardiovascular issues.

The World Health Organization reported earlier this year that air pollution kills seven million people each year, while researchers have also found that air pollution could be linked to an increased risk of dementia and affect children’s performance in school.

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