聯合國:每天有數千名兒童死於污染 (下) | 環境資訊中心

聯合國:每天有數千名兒童死於污染 (下)

2002年08月06日
ENS紐約市報導;龐中培編譯;蔡麗伶審校

根據世界衛生組織的資料,全球目前三分之一的疾病肇因於環境危險因子。其中40%發生在五歲以下的幼兒,而這些幼兒占全世界人口的十分之一。

其中最重要的因素是營養不良,有一億五千萬名兒童因營養不良而造成免疫系統受損。

營養不良和腹瀉形成惡性循環。造成腹瀉的病菌傷害兒童的消化管管壁,兒童無法吸收食物的養分,使得營養不良加重,而更容易受到疾病侵襲。

               世界衛生組織主席布郎德蘭(Gro.Harlem Brundtland)(照片提供:世界衛生組織)

世界衛生組織主席布郎德蘭(Gro.Harlem Brundtland)(照片提供:世界衛生組織)

世界衛生組織主席布郎德蘭(Gro.Harlem Brundtland)說:「人們在年紀小的時候最容易生病,這意味著兒童是人們反映不健康環境的重心。」

報告中警告,公眾甚少注意到兒童對於環境的健康危險因素。聯合國環境規劃署執行長多佛(Klaus Toefer)呼籲要採取跨國行動,喚起大家的注意。

他說:「我相信在國際議題中,與兒童有關的環境衛生事項應該提高份量,這可以經由聯合國大會和世界永續發展高峰會的討論而達成。我們應該要體認到,瞭解兒童的權利與處理環境問題是能互相增強的目標。」

這份報告也呼籲國家應該增加對於保護早期兒童的經費,其中的需要注意的地方包括住家、學校與社區。其中一項值得注意的成就就是許多國家都改用無鉛汽油,這有助於減少環境中的鉛。

               在週三的聯合國大會兒童會議中,玻利維亞的阿麗雅塔(Gabriela Azurduy Arrieta)呈遞兒童論壇的請願書給與會代表。(攝影:蘇珊‧馬其斯,版權歸屬:聯合國兒童基金會)

在週三的聯合國大會兒童會議中,玻利維亞的阿麗雅塔(Gabriela Azurduy Arrieta)呈遞兒童論壇的請願書給與會代表。(攝影:蘇珊‧馬其斯,版權歸屬:聯合國兒童基金會)

多佛補充說,希望新的研究「能夠使每個關心兒童的人採取決定性的行動,改善兒童的健康與地球環境。」

美國國會在週二(5/7)提出一項新的法案,促使聯邦政府增加會干擾賀爾蒙的化學物質的研究,這類化學物質是環境污染物中最持久而隱晦的。賀爾蒙干擾物是種合成化學物質,能阻礙、模擬或妨礙正常賀爾蒙的運作,並藉此控制生物體的發育與功能。

從1970年代以來,兒童的癌症、學習障礙、自閉症、糖尿病、青春期提早、陰莖異常發育發生率急遽增加。顯示這些異常與環境賀爾蒙干擾物有關連的證據正持續累積中。

世界野生動物基金會(WWW)野生動物與污染物部門的主任寇本(Theo Colborn)說:「特別麻煩的是,幼兒在子宮內到出生後不久──亦即其快速發展階段,都會暴露到這些物質。」

               美國眾議員斯勞特(Louise Slaughter)在週二提出增加研究賀爾蒙干擾物經費的法案。(照片提供:議員辦公室)

美國眾議員斯勞特(Louise Slaughter)在週二提出增加研究賀爾蒙干擾物經費的法案。(照片提供:議員辦公室)

紐約州民主黨的參議員斯勞特(Louise Slaughter)是2002年賀爾蒙干擾物研究法案的支持者。這項法案通過,可以使得國家環境衛生科學院(NIEHS)得到最多五億美金,在未來的五年中研究賀爾蒙受到干擾的相關研究。

國家環境衛生科學院必須提出報告,昭告公眾賀爾蒙干擾物對於人類健康與環境的威脅程度。

寇本說:「這個法案制訂得太晚,目前使用的化合物中沒有一個經過適當的檢驗,看看是否會影響兒童身體與腦的發育。現在急需要支持新的研究方法,以找出傳統毒物學遺漏的有害物質。

Pollution Kills Thousands of Children
According to WHO, almost one third of the global disease burden can be attributed to environmental risk factors. More than 40 percent of this burden falls on children under five years of age, even though they account for just 10 percent of the world's population.

A major contributing factor to these diseases is malnutrition, which affects around 150 million children and undermines their immune systems.

Malnutrition and diarrhea form a vicious cycle. The organisms that cause diarrhea harm the walls of children's digestive tracts, which prevents them absorbing their food, causing even greater malnutrition - and vulnerability to disease.

               Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, director general of WHO. (Photo courtesy WHO)

Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, director general of WHO. (Photo courtesy WHO)

"People are most vulnerable in their youngest years," said WHO director general Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland. "This means that children must be at the center of our response to unhealthy environments."

The report warns that the public has little awareness of children's special vulnerability to environmental health risks. Klaus Toefer, UNEP's executive director, called for international action to raise awareness of the problem.

"I am convinced that we need to elevate children's environmental health issues on the international agenda, both through the General Assembly's special session on children and then the World Summit on Sustainable Development," said Toefer. "We should recognize that realizing children's rights and managing environmental challenges are mutually reinforcing goals."

The report calls for increased national investment in early child care, including focusing on the immediate environments of children, like homes, schools, and communities. One notable success in many countries is the transition to unleaded fuel, which helps eliminate lead from the environment.

               Gabriela Azurduy Arrieta of Bolivia presents the recommendations of the Children's Forum to delegates at the UN General Assembly's Special Session on Children on Wednesday. (Photo by Susan Markisz UNICEF)

Gabriela Azurduy Arrieta of Bolivia presents the recommendations of the Children's Forum to delegates at the UN General Assembly's Special Session on Children on Wednesday. (Photo by Susan Markisz UNICEF)

Toefer added that he hoped the new study "will inspire everyone who cares about children to take decisive action that will improve both their health and the environment."

In the United States, a new bill was introduced Thursday that would increase federal research on hormone disrupting chemicals, among the most persistent and insidious environmental pollutants. Hormone disruptors are synthetic chemicals that block, mimic or otherwise interfere with naturally produced hormones that control how an organism develops and functions.

Since the 1970s, the incidence of childhood cancers, learning disabilities, autism, diabetes, early puberty, and abnormal penile development has skyrocketed. Evidence linking these disorders with exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals has continued to mount.

"What is especially troubling is that children are exposed to these chemicals in the womb and shortly after birth - periods of rapid development," said Dr. Theo Colborn, director of the World Wildlife Fund's wildlife and contaminants program.

               Representative Louise Slaughter introduced a bill Thursday to fund studies of hormone disrupting chemicals. (Photo courtesy Office of the Representative)

Representative Louise Slaughter introduced a bill Thursday to fund studies of hormone disrupting chemicals. (Photo courtesy Office of the Representative)

Representative Louise Slaughter, a New York Democrat, has sponsored the Hormone Disruption Research Act of 2002, which would authorize up to $500 million for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to conduct a five year research program on hormone disruption.

NIEHS would also be required to provide public reports on the extent to which hormone disrupting chemicals pose a threat to human health and the environment.

"This legislation is long overdue. Not one chemical in use today has been adequately tested for its ability to undermine the construction of children's bodies and brains," said Dr. Colborn. "There is an urgent need to support innovative research designed to identify hazards that traditional toxicology has missed."