Europe's legacy to its children - A healthier environment?

As ten new nations join the European Union, this week's Editorial welcomes next month's conference in Budapest to outline plans for improving European environmental health for children. The emphasis is on four regional priority goals: safe water and adequate sanitation; protection from injuries and adequate physical activity; clean outdoor and indoor air; and chemical-free environments.

However, the Editorial questions whether such wide-ranging goals are realistic given the specific action that could be taken now to improve environmental health for children in Europe: 'Laudable goals. But are they achievable? Or will we lament in 5 years' time the failure to progress any of these objectives just as we do with the Millennium Development Goals today? Would it not be better to pick only a few areas where clear disease causation and a high disease burden is proven and commit to immediate and specific Europe-wide legislation? In a supplement to last month's Pediatrics, the summarised evidence helps such priority setting: a ban of smoking in all public places and in children's houses; a drastic reduction of lead exposure; lowering of traffic speed in residential areas; and access to clean drinking water'.

The Editorial concludes: 'After bringing environmental and health ministers together, it is now time for doctors to take a front seat in a new specialty of environmental paediatric health. In the USA, Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units were established in 1998. In 2002, the Ambulatory Pediatric Association launched the first fellowship programme in paediatric environmental health. The National Children's Study, a longitudinal study of environmental influences on children's health, was authorised by the federal Children's Health Act in 2000, and will follow more than 100 000 children from birth to 21 years of age. The first preliminary results are expected in 2008/9. Europe should follow this example. Otherwise Budapest will host yet another

Contact: Joe Santangelo

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