“Most rich countries not only do not provide healthy environments for children within their borders, they are also contributing to the destruction of children’s environments in other parts of the world,” said Gunilla Olsson, Director of UNICEF’s Office of Research. Innocenti.
Urgent policy change
The most recently Innocenti Bulletin 17: Places and Spaces compares how 39 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union (EU) impact children’s environments.
Indicators include exposure to harmful pollutants such as toxic air, pesticides, moisture and lead; access to light, green spaces and safe roads; and countries’ contributions to the climate crisis, resource consumption and e-waste dumping.
The report states that if the entire world consumed resources at the rate of OECD and EU countries, it would take the equivalent of 3.3 land to keep up with consumption levels.
If it were at the rate at which people in Canada, Luxembourg and the United States do it, at least five lands would be needed, according to the report.
Not in your own backyard
While Spain, Ireland and Portugal are at the top of the list overallall OECD and EU countries are failing to provide healthy environments for all children across all indicators.
Based on CO2 emissions, e-waste and overall resource consumption per capita, Australia, Belgium, Canada and the United States are among other rich countries that rank low in creating a healthy environment for children both inside and outside their borders.
Meanwhile, Finland, Iceland and Norway are among those that provide healthier environments for children in their countries but disproportionately contribute to destroying the global environment.
“In some cases we are seeing countries providing relatively healthy environments for children at home while being among the major contributors to pollutants that are destroying children’s environments abroad”, attested Gunilla Olsson, Director of the UNICEF Research Office
In contrast, the less affluent OECD and EU countries in Latin America and Europe have a much smaller impact on the world at large.
More than 20 million children in this group have high levels of lead – one of the most dangerous environmental toxicants – in their blood.
In Iceland, Latvia, Portugal and the United Kingdom, one in five children is exposed to damp and mold at home; while in Cyprus, Hungary and Turkey, that number rises to more than one in four.
Many children are breathing toxic air inside and outside their homes.
More than one in 12 children in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Israel and Poland are exposed to high pesticide pollution, which has been linked to cancer – including childhood leukemia – and can harm the body’s vital systems.