Climate Change and the Health of Children
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Climate change is already affecting glacier melting, sea level rise, the range and distribution of plants and animals, tree blooming times, the length of growing seasons, freezing and thawing of rivers and lakes, and the extent of the permafrost. Climate change may also affect the health of children. Looking at several climate-related phenomena – extreme weather, air pollution, infectious diseases, and heat – provides a starting point for exploring how the changing climate may affect children’s health. The emphasis here is on possible effects to children in the United States, but some global perspectives are provided as well. Links are provided throughout to provide more background on technical environmental and health issues.

A Few Things to Remember

  • Climate change is global; but its effects on the physical environment will be experienced in communities locally, with varying intensity.
  • Climate change potentially places all people at risk, but its health effects will vary greatly among individuals and communities, just as all health varies with age, geography, income, health care availability and quality, nutrition, occupation, genetics and environment. In general, people and communities with higher income will suffer less than those in poor areas.
  • Children are different from adults in how they interact with their environment and how their health may be affected by these interactions. Children’s body systems are still developing, some through the second decade of life. Children eat more, drink more and breathe more than adults in proportion to their body weight, therefore their food, water and air must be clean enough to enable them to thrive. Children play and learn by crawling; they put their hands in their mouths; and they often play vigorously outdoors – these behaviors increase exposures to environmental contaminants.
  • While the effects of climate change may pose unique and increased risks to children’s health, these risks can be reduced through preparation, planning, and surveillance by our public health agencies at federal, state and local levels.
  • Outreach and education efforts to inform the public about these health effects may increase our societal and individual interest in and commitment to greenhouse gas reduction. This Web page links to over 25 easy steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce air pollution, and even save money.

Choose from the topics below to learn more:

Do Your Part for Climate Change

Join with other teens to green your energy scene. You can make a difference to the planet, children's health, and the future. Use the tools on this site to get smart on how you can help and calculate your impact. Become a Climate Ambassador by motivating your friends, school, and community to address climate change and children's health.

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