Children are not little adults

Los niños no són adultos pequeños 1

From our birth, human beings live permanently in touch with the environmental pollutants transmitted by air, water, diet and land. The exposition to a pollutant in a stage of our life can have negative effects in subsequent stages, both in the same person and in their descendents.

Children and their environment

From our birth, human beings live permanently in touch with the environmental pollutants transmitted by air, water, diet and land. The exposition to a pollutant in a stage of our life can have negative effects in subsequent stages, both in the same person and in their descendents.

In a globalised world, the environmental exposures are not an exception. Almost all of the newborns in any place of the world present detectable levels of persistent organic compounds. The phenomena of the earth distribution of these compounds can be one of the examples that justify the maxima: “think globally, act locally”, for the local use of these chemicals has global effects that can be more dangerous in places farther than their origin.

Children are more vulnerable to the environment than the adults, because their neurological, immunological and digestive systems, along with other systems, are still being formed. Besides, their conduct patrons, such as crawling and putting things in their mouths, can imply a higher exposition to some pollutants. For all this, their physical, social and intellectual development, from their conception to the adolescence requires a protected environment

The sources of many chronic diseases are accumulated in the body from the first stages of life, and all that occurs in the embryonic and foetal stages is of high importance. There is, therefore, a growing number of diseases in childhood associated to a polluted environment. The environmental pollution affects the neurobehavioral, immunological and sexual development of the children. The maternal nutrition during pregnancy, lactation and the children’s nutrition play a double role on their development: on one hand, they are one of the sources of exposure to pollutants; on the other hand, they are also a source of healthy nutrients.

The epidemiological research (the discipline that studies the origin and the distribution of the diseases in the human populations, with the aim to prevent them) has been classically based on the study of the causes of several pathological processes defined as diseases or syndromes. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in studying small alterations that, yet the can be considered within normality for an individual, they can be important at a population level, if a great number of people are exposed. This would be the case for most of the pollutants that we find in the developed countries. Their levels in the general population are low enough as not to cause acute disorders, but are also high enough to cause small alterations that, added to other more known risk factors, can help to develop any pathology in a long term basis. Whichever the affectation level of these compounds in the human health, the fact of studying them in very early stages of life allows us to enter a very important field in the Public Health: the possibility to apply preventive measures to reduce or erase the problem.