Children's Environmental Health
Changing Health Risks for Children Over the Last Century

In the last century, there have been many significant advances in public health that have increased the life expectancy of Americans.

THEN

NOW

  • Top causes of death at the turn of the century included infectious diseases such as pneumonia/influenza, tuberculosis, diarrheal diseases, and diphtheria8

  • 30.4 percent of all deaths occurred among children under 5 years of age9

  • Percentage of child deaths attributable to infectious diseases was 61.6 percent10

  • Overcrowding, poor housing conditions, and inadequate water treatment and waste disposal systems in the early 1900s resulted in outbreaks of cholera, dysentery, TB, typhoid fever, influenza, yellow fever, and malaria 9
  • Top causes of children’s death now are unintentional injuries due to accidents (all ages), congenital malformations (ages 1 – 4 years), and cancer (ages 5-14 years).11

  • 1.4 percent of all deaths occurred among children under 5 years of age9

  • Percentage of child deaths attributable to infectious diseases is 2 percent10

  • Improvements in technology, drinking water treatment, sewage disposal, food safety, and public education about hygienic practices and waste disposal have decreased the number of children suffering from infectious diseases such as measles, smallpox, polio-myelitis, and cholera4,10

  • Development of insecticides and herbicides for use on food crops has greatly improved accessibility and affordability of food.12

Advancements in sanitation, nutrition, vector control, and deliberate public health interventions such as vaccination and treatment of infectious diseases have changed the landscape of public health.13 As a result of these advances; people in the U.S. experienced great improvement in their health. Gains in life expectancy during the 20th century were greater than at any other time in history.14 In the 20th century, life expectancy in the U.S. increased by 27 years. The infant mortality rate decreased by 93 percent between 1915 and 1998.10

Reducing Exposures to Contaminants

There are simple steps you can take to reduce your child's exposure to environmental contaminants. For detailed information on reducing exposures to pesticides, volatile organic chemicals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and metals, visit Reducing Exposures to Contaminants.

References

Updated Wednesday, 23-Apr-2014 11:38:00 CDT