Healthy Environments for Children Alliance

Healthy Environments for Children Alliance listserv

The Healthy Environments for Children Alliance listserv (HECANET) is an international mailing list dedicated to promoting healthy environments for children. The list provides updates on the activities of the Healthy Environments for Children Alliance (HECA), advocacy tools and information resources, relevant meeting announcements, and reports on technical research and monitoring related to environmental risks to children's health.


  • Reminder: HECA at Upcoming Events
  • National Profiles on Children's Environmental Health
  • WHO Completes Pilot Study of POPs in Breast Milk
  • European Environment and Health Strategy: SCALE Regional Conferences
  • Stove Intervention Study and ARI in Young Children
  • CEH/HEC in South-east Asia and the Western Pacific
  • Information Resource: Protection of the Human Environment Web Site

Reminder: HECA at Upcoming Events

The Healthy Environments for Children Alliance will be involved in two upcoming events: an interactive panel discussion on HEC (16:15-17:45, 20 October, Block E) at the International Healthy Cities Conference (Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK); and a HEC round table discussion (9:30-12:45, 21 October, WHO HQ), organized by the Fondation pour Geneve, World Health Organization, and the Association des Medecins du canton de Geneve. More information:

National Profiles on Children's Environmental Health

As stated in the objectives for the workshop “Environmental Threats to the Health of Children in the Americas” conducted in April, 2003, in Lima, Peru, one outcome sought by the Pan American Health Organization/WHO Regional Office for the Americas (PAHO/AMRO) was to develop a regional perspective on children's environmental health. For this purpose, the development of national profiles on children’s environmental health was proposed to the countries of the Region. The following countries, to date, have produced national profiles: Brasil, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, and Venezuela. More information:

CEH/HEC in South-east Asia and the Western Pacific

According to the article "Environmental Threats to Children's Health in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific" (published in Volume 111, Number 10, August 2003, Environmental Health Perspectives), the South-east Asia and Western Pacific regions contain half of the world's children and are among the most rapidly industrializing regions of the globe. Environmental threats to children's health are widespread and are multiplying as nations in the area undergo industrial development and pass through the epidemiologic transition. These environmental hazards range from traditional threats such as bacterial contamination of drinking water and wood smoke in poorly ventilated dwellings to more recently introduced chemical threats such as asbestos construction materials; arsenic in groundwater; methyl isocyanate in Bhopal, India; untreated manufacturing wastes released to landfills; chlorinated hydrocarbon and organophosphorous pesticides; and atmospheric lead emissions from the combustion of leaded gasoline. To address these problems, pediatricians, environmental health scientists, and public health workers throughout South-east Asia and the Western Pacific have begun to build local and national research and prevention programs in children's environmental health. Read the full article:

European Environment and Health Strategy: SCALE Regional Conferences

The SCALE initiative, launched by the European Commission, presents a systematic approach to the development of a European Environment and Health Strategy, particularly in regards to children's environmental health. It is based on [S]cientific evidence, focused on [C]hildren, meant to raise [A]wareness, improve the situation by use of [L]egal instruments, and ensure a continual [E]valuation of the progress made. Its aim is to assess and minimize adverse health effects due to environmental pollution, and comprises the build-up of information systems, as well as the compilation of adequate political measures. To facilitate an efficient working process, priority topics have been chosen and attributed to three Technical Working Groups (TWGs): 1) TWG on indicators and priority diseases (subgroups: environment and health indicators; respiratory diseases, neurodevelopmental diseases and childhood cancer); 2) TWG on integrated monitoring (subgroups: biomonitoring of children; pilot projects on dioxins and PCBs, heavy metals, endocrine disrupters); 3) TWG on research needs. Three EU Regional Conferences serving to initiate and promote the SCALE initiative are currently underway. These constitute the kick-off meetings for the Technical Working Groups and give the starting shot for the development of the European Environment and Health Strategy. One conference took place on 6-7 October in Warsaw; another on 9 October in Brussels, and the last one will take place in Rome on 16/17 October. More information:

Stove Intervention Study and ARI in Young Children

Indoor air pollution arising from the use of biomass fuels in developing countries is recognised to be responsible for a substantial burden of disease among the poor, principally resulting from acute respiratory infections (ARI) in young children and chronic respiratory illness in women. In response to this, WHO has supported the development of an intervention study to directly measure the change in incidence of acute lower respiratory infections in young children of measured reductions in exposure to indoor air pollution. After several years development work and through funding by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a study is underway in the rural highlands of western Guatemala, led by a team from the universities of del Valle (Guatemala City), Berkeley (USA), and Liverpool (UK). In these poor highland areas, most families are dependent on wood for their cooking and space heating needs, and the majority in the poorest areas still use an open three-stone fire with very little ventilation. Some 500 homes with very young children (aged less than six months), using open fires, were invited to join the study. A random 50% of the homes were then offered a locally made improved chimney stove, the plancha, which studies have shown is very well accepted, meets all household needs, and substantially reduces indoor air pollution levels as well as exposure of women and children. More information:

WHO Completes Pilot Study of POPs in Breast Milk

With the signing in 2002 of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), preparations are underway by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to begin the implementation of the Convention once the ratification process is completed. In particular, Article 16 of the Convention calls for an effectiveness evaluation to be undertaken four years after the date of entry into force of the Convention, and periodically thereafter. During a meeting of experts convened by UNEP on this subject in March 2003, the three previous studies of dioxins, dibenzofurans and PCBs in human breast milk coordinated by WHO were presented. As a consequence, the meeting recommended that levels of POPs in breast milk be one of the indicators to be monitored to assess the effectiveness of the Convention. WHO has just completed a pilot study to analyse all POPs in breast milk (with the exception of mirex, which was used as an internal standard) from 16 countries around the world. The study confirmed the feasibility of using breast milk as an indicator, although it is recognized that the protocol for sample collection will need to be improved. While these preliminary results are only indicative of actual levels, the picture of POPs contamination of breast milk appears to vary markedly across the world and provides a means for setting national or regional priorities. This work has been undertaken in collaboration with the Dioxin Laboratory at the Chemisches und Veterinaruntersuchungamt in Freiburg, Germany, and the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment in Bilthoven, Netherlands.

Information Resource: Protection of the Human Environment Web Site

Children's environmental health is one of the areas of work featured on the new Web site for WHO's Protection of the Human Environment (PHE) programme. The Web site, located at, provides resources such as guidelines, briefings and publications, databases and statistics, training materials, press releases, links to partnering organizations and collaborating centres, and event announcements. The following PHE programme areas of work--many of which relate to healthy environments for children--are covered on the site: air quality; chemical safety; children's environmental health; climate and global environmental change; environmental burden of disease; electromagnetic fields; environmental health impact assessment; ionizing radiation; occupational health; ultraviolet radiation; and water, sanitation and health.