While all aspects of health are important, child health has always been a special area of concern. This is partly because of the high concern we all have for children, and partly because children are more vulnerable than adults to several health hazards.
This has become all the more important in recent times when new products are being rolled down very rapidly with less than adequate testing regarding their safety. In the conflict between profits and safety, sadly often quick profits prevail. In the case of several of these products the full information of their health hazards is revealed several years after these have been in use, and by this time immense damage to health has aleady taken place.
If the available world-level literature on this important issue is examined carefully, then it is found that many important questions with a lot of evidence have been raised in the context of several products. These even include products which have been promoted in the name of child health and protection. Several senior and very respected scientists with great achievements to their credit are also associated with raising these questions.
While several questions have been raised by senior scientists, doctors and eminent child health advocates regarding the safety of several products and technologies, in addition questions have been raised also regarding the desirability or urgency of the need of several of these hazardous products. On balance it appears that in case of several of these products risks and hazards are much higher than claimed benefits.
Our guiding principle should be the precautionary principle and the directive of ‘Cause no harm’. This is particularly in the case of children including teenagers as they are more vulnarable and they have their entire life ahead of them.
Hence our policy-makers and implementors should give much more attention to the entire worldwide discourse on these products, including the dissenting and minority opinion being given by several eminent scientists. In evaluating the entire evidence we need to look at what is being said by independent scientists and doctors vis-à-vis what is being stated by those with conflict of interest.
Independent and honest experts must mutually discuss these questions and assert their independent opinion in an organized manner to protect health of children. They should carefully monitor all important information and try to ensure that this reaches more people and policy-makers. On the other hand, policy makers have an even higher responsibility to protect child health. Neglect of this responsibility can prove very costly.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His books include Protecting Earth for Children and Planet in Peril.