UN Says One Third of Child Deaths Due to Environment

By Stefan Bos

Budapest - Government ministers and more than 1,000 delegates from 50 countries have gathered in Budapest to discuss a plan to address environmental hazards that, according to UN data, kill tens of thousands of children each year.

One-third of deaths of children and teenagers are caused by air pollution, unsafe water, and other environmental hazards. That is the grim conclusion of a study presented by the World Health Organization at a meeting in Budapest.

The assistant director general of the WHO, Kerstin Leitner, says pollution-related child death is clearly not a problem limited to the developing countries.

"We know that every year many children die of diarrhea diseases. And these are to a large extent water-borne," she said. "And these are not only in the poorest of the developing countries, I hasten to add. They are, in fact, even a challenge in some of the most developed countries."

The WHO findings will serve as a backdrop for discussion of a controversial European Union plan to impose strict rules on the trade in chemical products. Under the proposal, known under the acronym REACH, manufacturers and importers of chemicals will have to register in a central database and share information about the risks their products may pose.

Also under discussion will be a European plan to reduce children's respiratory disease due to indoor and outdoor pollution, and to give all European children access to clean water by 2015.

WHO General Secretary Jong Wook Lee says Europe should serve as a model for the other countries to follow.

"To me the European Union member states will continue to be the benchmark of the rest of the world," he said.

The WHO is hoping to put pressure on the governments to tighten environmental standards and devote more resources to curbing indoor and outdoor pollution.

Source: Voice of America