Multiple threats to child health from fossil fuel combustion: Impacts of air pollution and climate change

Background: Approaches to estimating and addressing the risk to children from fossil fuel combustion have been fragmented, tending to focus either on the toxic air emissions or on climate change. Yet developing children, and especially poor children, now bear a disproportionate burden of disease from both environmental pollution and climate change due to fossil fuel combustion.

Objective: This commentary summarizes the robust scientific evidence regarding the multiple current and projected health impacts of fossil fuel combustion on the young to make the case for a holistic, child-centered energy and climate policy that addresses the full array of physical and psychosocial stressors resulting from fossil fuel pollution.

Discussion: The data summarized here show that by sharply reducing our dependence on fossil fuels we would achieve highly significant health and economic benefits for our children and their future. These benefits would occur immediately and also play out over the life-course and potentially across generations.

Conclusion: Going beyond the powerful scientific and economic arguments for urgent action to reduce the burning of fossil fuels, is the strong moral imperative to protect our most vulnerable populations.

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