Published: 30/05/2002, Volume II2, No. 5807 Page 8

Children bear the brunt of disease caused by environmental degradation, three United Nations agencies have claimed in the run-up to next week's UN General Assembly special session on children. A report from Unicef, the World Health Organisation and the UN environment programme says 5,500 children a day die from diseases caused by consuming contaminated water and food. Around a third of global diseases are due to environmental risk factors and over 40 per cent of the burden falls on children under five, even though they account for only 10 per cent of the world's population.Two diseases of environmental degradation - diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections - are the leading causes of child mortality.Toxic chemicals found in the environment, such as lead from fuel and pesticides used in farming, also disproportionately affect young children.