El medio ambiente y la salud de los niños

El medio ambiente y la salud de los niños
La problemática
Cada año mueren más de tres millones de menores de cinco años por causas y afecciones relacionadas con el medio ambiente. El medio ambiente es, pues, uno de los factores que influyen de forma más decisiva en el tributo mundial de diez millones de defunciones infantiles anuales, y uno muy importante para la salud y el bienestar de lasmadres.
El aire interior y exterior y el agua contaminados, la falta de saneamiento adecuado, los riesgos de toxicidad, los vectores de enfermedades, la radiación ultravioleta y los ecosistemas degradados son factores ambientales de riesgo importantes para los niños, y en la mayor parte de los casos para sus madres también. En particular en los países en desarrollo, los riesgos y la contaminaciónambientales contribuyen de manera muy importante a la mortalidad, la morbilidad y la discapacidad infantiles asociadas a las enfermedades respiratorias agudas, enfermedades diarreicas, traumatismos físicos, intoxicaciones, enfermedades transmitidas por insectos e infecciones perinatales. La mortalidad y la morbilidad infantiles debidas a causas como la pobreza y la malnutrición también van asociadas amodalidades insostenibles de desarrollo y a la degradación del medio ambiente urbano o rural.

Principales causas de mortalidad de menores de cinco años relacionadas con el medio ambiente
* La diarrea causa la muerte de unos 1,6 millones de niños por año, principalmente debido al agua contaminada y a un saneamiento deficiente.
* La contaminación del aire en locales cerrados asociada a lautilización todavía generalizada de combustibles de biomasa causa la muerte de casi un millón de niños al año, principalmente por infecciones respiratorias agudas. Las madres, que se encargan de cocinar o permanecen próximas al fogón después de haber dado a luz, son quienes corren más riesgo de enfermedades respiratorias crónicas.
* El paludismo, cuya amenaza se puede exacerbar como consecuenciade un manejo y un almacenamiento deficientes del agua, viviendas inadecuadas, deforestación y pérdida de biodiversidad, causa la muerte de aproximadamente un millón de menores de cinco años, principalmente en África.
* Los traumatismos físicos no intencionales, que pueden estar relacionados con riesgos ambientales presentes en el hogar o la comunidad, causan la muerte de casi 300 000 niños poraño; de ese total, 60 000 defunciones se atribuyen a ahogamiento, 40 000 a incendios, 16 000 a caídas, 16 000 a intoxicaciones, 50 000 a incidentes de tránsito y más de 100 000 a otros traumatismos no intencionales.

La exposición a riesgos ambientales perjudiciales para la salud puede comenzar antes del nacimiento. El plomo en el aire, el mercurio en los alimentos, así como otras sustanciasquímicas, pueden tener efectos a largo plazo, a menudo irreversibles, como infertilidad, abortos espontáneos y defectos de nacimiento. La exposición de las mujeres a plaguicidas, disolventes y contaminantes orgánicos persistentes pueden afectar a la salud del feto. Además, aunque se reconocen los beneficios generales de la lactancia natural, la salud del recién nacido puede verse afectada por la presenciade altos niveles de contaminantes en la leche materna. Los niños pequeños, cuyos cuerpos se desarrollan con rapidez, son especialmente vulnerables, y en algunos casos los efectos en la salud sólo se manifiestan en años posteriores de la vida.
Además, hay niños de cinco años de edad que trabajan en entornos peligrosos. Las embarazadas que viven y trabajan en entornos peligrosos y las madrespobres y sus hijos corren mayores riesgos porque se hallan expuestos a medios muy degradados, a menudo desconocen las repercusiones de ello para la salud y carecen de acceso a información sobre las posibles soluciones.
Mejorar la salud ambiental de los niños y sus madres ocupándose de las cuestiones que afectan a su salud constituye una contribución esencial para el logro de los Objetivos de…

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