Activities, initiatives, statements, reviews
Children´s environmental health: overview on activities, initiatives, statements, reviews
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) has been signed and ratified by practically all nations. It stresses "the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health" (Article 24) and asks "to combat disease and malnutrition ... taking into account … the dangers and risks of environmental pollution".
There have been numerous local and several international initiatives, on very different levels, to focus and promote children's environmental health. Their contents are not going to be cited here in extenso; many of these manifests, documents, declarations are repeating very similar statements and calls for action: Children are more vulnerable than adults, it is society's task to protect them from hazards and to ensure to the possible utmost their well being etc.
Nearly ten years ago, the G8-group issued a "1997 Declaration of the Environment Leaders of the Eight on Children's Environmental Health" in Miami, Florida. Points for implementation actions on a world wide scale were: Risk assessment and standard setting; lead; safe drinking water; endocrine disruptors; air quality (G8-Group, 1997).
Within the frame of the Ministerial Conferences on Environment and Health (Frankfurt 1989, Helsinki 1994, London 1999, Budapest 2004) (G8-Graoup, 1997) attention has been centered to children's issues, and in Budapest a "Children's Environment and Health Action Plan" for Europe (CEHAPE) (Word Health Organisation, 2004) was issued, defining four "Regional Priority Goals": Water and sanitation; accidents and injuries; outdoor and indoor air pollution; and hazardous chemicals and physical and biological agents; with commitments of "developing and starting to implement national children's environment and health action plans by 2007 at the latest". Previously, for the London Conference, the European Environment Agency (EEA), had prepared a background briefing "Children in their environment: vulnerable, valuable, and at risk" (EEA, 1999).
The World Health Organisation (WHO), Regional Office for Europe, jointly with the EEA, in its Environmental Issue Report No. 29 centres on "Children's Health and Environment: A Review of Evidence" (WHO and EEA, 2002).
The WHO has edited an extensive review: "Principles for Evaluating Health Risks in Children Associated with Exposure to Chemicals", at the time available only as an unedited draft, 301 pages long (IPCS, 2006).
The US Environmental Protection Agency ( US EPA) has focused their attention to children's environmental problems and hazards in North America: “America's Children and the Environment: Measures, Body Burdens, and Illnesses”. Their "Strategic Plan" foresees 7 goals: clean air; clean and safe water; safe food; preventing pollution and reducing risks in communities, homes, workplaces, and ecosystems; better waste management, restoration of contaminated waste sites, and emergency response; quality environmental information (US EPA, 2003).
At the same time, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), has issued a report: "Children's Health and the Environment in North America. A First Report on Available Indicators and Measures” (CEC, 2006).
The European Centre for Ecotoxicology and Toxicology of Chemicals (ECETOC) with its task force and scientific committee comprising mainly industry and producer's scientists, has issued in 2005 a Technical Report No. 96: “Trends in Children's Health and the Role of Chemicals: State of the Science Review” (ECETOC, 2005).
The US EPA is developing a Toxicity and Exposure Assessment for Children's Health (TEACH) website (US EPA, 2006) which, at the moment, contains only scarce information, but is promising to become a useful tool in the future, whilst the German Paediatric Commission on Environmental Health maintains an active and much used website for health professionals in German language (www.uminfo.de), as well as a website for the general public (www.allum.de).
German paediatricians as well as their Commission on Children’s Environmental Health together with the Robert Koch-Institut (RKI) and Kinderumwelt previously have organised workshops on this topic (Bilger and Petersen, 2000; RKI and Kinderumwelt, 2002).
The German Health Authorities (Robert Koch-Institut and Umweltbundesamt (UBA)) have conducted in the last three years an important children's and youth's health survey (KiGGS) and an environmental survey (KUS), including some 17.000 and 1.800 participants, respectively. The results of these surveys will be published and will finally be available over the internet within the next two years (RKI, 2006; UBA, 2006).