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Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Environmental hazards and young children

© UNICEF/HQ98-0452/Brandt
Children in Honduras try to wash themselves in a muddy pool of water.

Children—and especially young children—are particularly vulnerable to environmental health hazards. In "The Environment For Children: Understanding and Acting on the Environmental Hazards that Threaten Children and their Parents" by David Satterthwaite et al. (Earthscan Publications Ltd., London, 1996 — produced with support from UNICEF) a useful classification of these hazards is presented, adapted below:   

In the home and community

  • Biological pathogens (disease-causing agents) and their pathways within the human environment which impair child growth and health - including the many pathogenic micro-organisms in human excreta and disease vectors (e.g. mosquitoes, rats and air born pathogens).
  • Chemical pollutants such as pesticides, fertilizers and industrial waste.
  • Insufficient natural resources, such as food, water and fuel, on which human health depends..
  • Physical hazards, including those within the house (such as strong domestic cleaners and other sources of injury), the neighbourhood (such as vehicle traffic where children play), and natural phenomena (such as flooding and mudslides).

Household, community and higher levels

  • Aspects of the built environment harmful to psychosocial health and development, such as leaded paint, inadequate infrastructure, services and security.

Community and higher levels

  • Degradation of natural resources , including soil erosion, deforestation and the degradation of air, soil and water quality.

National and global levels

  • Environmental problems with more indirect but long-term impacts on human health and the well-being of future generations, such as the depletion of energy resources, destruction of ecosystems, global warming and depletion of the ozone layer.




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