UN says rich countries putting children around the world at risk

By AFP   May 23, 2022 | 05:47 pm PT
UN says rich countries putting children around the world at risk
In this file photo taken on June 10, 2020 teachers wearing face masks gesture opposite children at the Palotes pre-school in Valladolid, Spain. Photo by AFP/Cesar Manso
Rich countries are creating unsafe living conditions for children both at home and around the world, a UNICEF report released Tuesday said, calling on states to reduce waste and cut pollution.

UNICEF's Innocenti Research Center studied 39 countries from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union (EU) according to different criteria, including pesticide use, home humidity, lead exposure, access to light and waste generation.

While Spain, Ireland and Portugal performed relatively well, none of the countries studied were found to provide healthy environments for children, according to the report.

"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," said the center's director Gunilla Olsson in a statement.

The report noted, however, that less wealthy countries in Latin America and Europe had a lower impact on the general state of the planet compared to some wealthier states studied.

While Finland, Iceland and Norway were in the lead for providing a healthy environment for their own youth, they were in last place in terms of their impact on the planet for their emissions rates, electronic waste volume and consumption level.

In Iceland, Latvia, Portugal and Britain, one in five children is exposed to damp and mold in their home, while in Cyprus, Hungary and Turkey, more than one child out of four was affected.

Many children breathe toxic air both indoors and out, especially in Mexico, although not in Finland and Japan, the report also found.

In Belgium, Israel, the Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic and Switzerland, more than one in twelve children are exposed to high levels of pesticide pollution, the report said.

In the 39 countries studied, more than 20 million children had high levels of lead in their blood, it added.

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