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Climate change and children's health

Bernstein, Aaron Sa,b; Myers, Samuel Sc,d

Current Opinion in Pediatrics: April 2011 - Volume 23 - Issue 2 - p 221–226
doi: 10.1097/MOP.0b013e3283444c89
Therapeutics and toxicology: Edited by Robert O. Wright

Purpose of review To present the latest data that demonstrate how climate change affects children's health and to identify the principal ways in which climate change puts children's health at risk.

Recent findings Data continue to emerge that further implicate climate change as contributing to health burdens in children. Climate models have become even more sophisticated and consistently forecast that greenhouse gas emissions will lead to higher mean temperatures that promote more intense storms and droughts, both of which have profound implications for child health. Recent climate models shed light upon the spread of vector-borne disease, including Lyme disease in North America and malaria in Africa. Modeling studies have found that conditions conducive to forest fires, which generate harmful air pollutants and damage agriculture, are likely to become more prevalent in this century due to the effects of greenhouse gases added to earth's atmosphere.

Summary Through many pathways, and in particular via placing additional stress upon the availability of food, clean air, and clean water and by potentially expanding the burden of disease from certain vector-borne diseases, climate change represents a major threat to child health. Pediatricians have already seen and will increasingly see the adverse health effects of climate change in their practices. Because of this, and many other reasons, pediatricians have a unique capacity to help resolve the climate change problem.

aCenter for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard Medical School, USA

bChildren's Hospital Boston, USA

cMount Auburn Hospital, USA

dDepartment of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Correspondence to Aaron S. Bernstein, MD, MPH, Center for Health and the Global Environment, 401 Park Drive, 2nd Floor East, Boston, MA 02215, USA Tel: + 1 617 384 8530; fax: +1 617 384 8585; e-mail:

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.