Special Circumstances and Risk Factors

The problems of environmental pollution and its effects on children will increase in the years to come because of environmental pollution. This is especially true of the older cities where industries built their factories near the rivers for a source of water and disposal of waste of all types. Cheap housing was built next to the factories to provide accommodation for the necessary workers to build the products that were being made as a result of the industrial revolution. This housing stock was poorly built and proper sanitary services were rarely provided. In addition, because they were so close to the factories’ air pollutants as well as the pollutants buried in the ground close to the factory, location became a serious source of potential disease for this very poor and usually immigrant population. The current urban poor typically live in this type of housing or facilities close to or on contaminated land. This then becomes a problem of environmental justice because the enforcement of environmental laws tends to be considerably more lax than in more prosperous areas. The concept of environmental justice states that regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, all citizens should be given the same opportunity to live in a clean environment free of pollutants and other problems which may affect the residents.

The release of pollutants is a byproduct of the improvements in agriculture and industrial processes which enhance our economy and make our lives better. The major question will be how to accomplish these improvements without adversely affecting certain select communities.

It is estimated that in the first 5 years of life, a child will consume an estimated 50% of the pesticides that the individual will ingest over a lifetime. Despite the reduction in lead poisoning from leaded gasoline, over 1 million children in the United States have elevated blood lead levels, and another approximately 2 million children are at risk of lead poisoning. Asthma, the most chronic of children’s diseases in the United States, affects approximately 7 million children below the age of 18 (see Introduction). About 80% of the individual’s lifetime exposure to damaging ultraviolet light occurs before 18 years of age.

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