“Not only are the majority of rich countries failing to 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.” speak Gunilla Olsson, Director of UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti.
Urgent policy change
Latest Innocenti Report Card 17: Place and Space compares how 39 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union (EU) impact children’s environment.
Indicators include exposure to harmful pollutants, such as toxic air, pesticides, humidity, and lead; access to light, green space and safe roads; and countries’ contributions to the climate crisis, resource consumption and e-waste dumping.
The report says that if the whole world consumed resources at the rate of OECD and EU countries, it would take the equivalent of 3.3 earths to keep up with consumption.
According to the report, at the rate that people in Canada, Luxembourg and the United States do, it would take at least five earths.
Not in your own backyard
While Spain, Ireland and Portugal topped the overall listnot all OECD and EU countries 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 the other wealthy nations that rank low for creating a better environment. healthy for children within and beyond their borders.
Meanwhile, Finland, Iceland and Norway are among the countries that provide a healthier environment for their countries’ children but disproportionately contribute to the destruction of the global environment.
“In some cases we are seeing countries that provide a relatively healthy environment for children at home while also being among the biggest contributors to the pollutants that are destroying the habitat of children abroad.”Gunilla Olsson, Director of UNICEF’s Office of Research attests
In contrast, the OECD and EU countries are the least affluent in Latin America and Europe, having a much lower impact on the wider world.
More than 20 million children in this group have high levels of lead – one of the most dangerous environmental toxins – in their blood.
In Iceland, Latvia, Portugal and the United Kingdom, one in five children is exposed to dampness and mold at home; while in Cyprus, Hungary and Turkey, that number rises to more than a quarter.
Many children are breathing toxic air both inside and outside their homes.
More than one in 12 children in Belgium, Czech Republic, Israel and Poland is exposed to high levels of pesticide contamination, which has been linked to cancer – including childhood leukemia – and possibly harm to vital systems of the body.