By Dr. Kaycee Reyes
They say healthy kids are happy kids, and that is so true. As a young one grows and develops into adulthood, however, he or she is more susceptible to factors that may contribute to the state of his or health later on in life. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), children get exposed to air pollution, climate change, and unsafe water and sanitation, among others due to the fact that they drink more water, eat more food, and breathe in more air per unit of their body weight that would affect how their organs develop over time. Given that our current living conditions have some risks for growing children, what should we do to have a sustainable environment?
Of all the environmental risks that affect children’s health more than adults, air pollution is apparently the biggest culprit worldwide. According to WHO, 300 million children worldwide are exposed to pollution with levels much higher than WHO standards. More than 500,000 children die annually from respiratory diseases alone due to indoor pollution, outdoor pollution, and secondhand smoke. In fact, more than 10 percent of children above five years old have asthma symptoms already that can be attributable to pollution. Dangerous chemicals like lead, however, are the most life-threatening risk of all to the young ones, as these can affect brain development. As children touch the ground more and put their hands in their mouths they are at an increased risk. Unsafe pesticide use can also bring acute pesticide poisoning to children. Other environmental risks include unsanitary environments and unsafe drinking water that is a major cause of diarrhea among children below five years, and poor control over bodies of water such as lakes and ponds that is a cause of mosquito-borne malaria.
Currently, our government is making steps to ensure a better environment for everyone. The Clean Air Act has been implemented since 1999 and, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), it focuses on pollution prevention than control with the cooperation of other government agencies and stakeholders. The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 aims for proper waste segregation and disposal of solid waste. The Clean Water Act has also been in place since 2004, to protect our bodies of water from industrial and commercial waste. Recently, the Department of Education (DOE) has banned lead-containing paint in all public schools and playgrounds, which also includes all teaching materials, school supplies, and toys. Even firecrackers are being regulated by the government, as these chemicals can stay longer in the air and cause respiratory diseases as well.
Children suffering and dying from non-communicable diseases rise every year that can be attributable to an unhealthy environment. While the government has its own laws put down to curb air pollution, there are a lot of ways we can preserve the environment in our own ways. Keeping our own households clean, organizing a clean-up drive in your community, having DIY non-toxic cleaning agents at home, recycling and reducing waste are examples on how to start the change on your own. No action is too small. If we help each other, together it can make a big impact for our lives, and even more for the lives of future generations.