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Pediatricians Group Says Climate Change Threatens Kids

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By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on October 30, 2015 12:59 PM

Climate change uniquely affects children's health and is an increasing threat, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The group issued a statement in the journal Pediatrics warning of the dangers of climate change to kids particularly.

"Warming of the planet is unequivocal," the AAP writes, taking those who doubt the environmental shifts exist head on. It began, "There is wide consensus among scientific organizations and climatologists that these broad effects, known as "climate change" are the result of contemporary human activity."

The Dangers Detailed

Climate change poses threats to human health, safety, and security, and children are uniquely vulnerable to these threats, the organization explains. The following dangers are caused by environmental shifts, per the AAP:

  • Physical and psychological sequelae of weather disasters
  • Increased heat stress
  • Decreased air quality
  • Altered disease patterns of some climate-sensitive infections
  • Food, water, and nutrient insecurity in vulnerable regions

Why Now?

The group is speaking out because natural disasters due to extreme weather occurred three times more often between 2000 and 2009 than did between 1980 and 1989. This makes climate change a growing threat, the AAP says. It detailed the primary effects of climate change and natural disasters on kids.

Extreme weather events injure kids, separate them from caregivers, expose them to infectious diseases, and have serious mental health consequences, including posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and adjustment disorder. "Disasters can cause irrevocable harm to children through devastation of their homes, schools, and neighborhoods, all of which contribute to their physiologic and cognitive development," the AAP writes.

What Now?

The statement calls for immediate action to protect vulnerable populations but does not specify what precisely pediatricians and the rest of us should do. It is not a plan. Rather, it is a call for engagement in figuring out a solution and asks children's physicians particularly to learn more for the sake of their patients and to shape policy.

"Although uncertainties remain regarding risks and appropriate policy response," writes the AAP, "failure to take prompt, substantive action -- given our current knowledge -- would be an act of injustice to all children."

Legal Actions to Protect Children

In recent years, there have been a number of lawsuits aimed and protecting children from harms related to natural disasters and environmental health risks. For example, California recently saw a lawsuit to protect Latino children affected by fracking. It's likely that similar suits will continue to be filed to protect children's water and air quality across the nation.

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