A recent report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a United States public organization, shows that climate change has dire physical and mental health implications for children. They include elevated rates of respiratory diseases, organ failure, seizures, and increased infection rates,
For instance, the organization says, children cannot regulate their body temperature as efficiently as adults and excess heat can lead to fainting, organ failure, seizures, coma, or even death.
Further, high heat also has been linked to increased risks of anxiety or depression. In addition, it makes it difficult for students to sleep and concentrate, both of which impact learning hence affecting their mental health.
The quality of the air children breathe can impact their respiratory function, leading to diseases like asthma and cancer, the report says. Children’s respiratory function also will be impacted by longer warm seasons and shorter cool seasons that result in longer pollen exposure.
Further, increases in flooding leave children vulnerable to drowning, waterborne pathogens and mold, according to the report. Climate change also can mean ticks and mosquitoes are seen in more areas for longer periods each year, leading to increases in Lyme disease and West Nile virus.
Apart from health hazards caused by flooding, a global sea level rise of 50 centimeters could result in 185,000 children in coastal areas losing their homes and just over 1 million additional children being displaced temporarily.
The report demonstrates how climate change can have unequal effects on overburdened populations due to differences in exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity, which are influenced by historic inequities deeply rooted in our laws, policies, and institutions.
To this end, many of these effects fall disproportionately on people who are Black, Indigenous, people of color, and have low income.
The report note that changing seasonality also will alter the ways children play or recreate outside. Overall, new evidence suggests that lengthening warm seasons are expected to result in more time spent on outdoor recreation.
The report highlights some of the actions individuals and communities can take such as using greener transportation, managing their energy use and waste generation, planting trees, building sustainable neighborhoods, protecting themselves from environmental hazards and preparing their families for disasters.