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Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2007 Oct;210(5):571-80. Epub 2007 Sep 4.

Child poverty and environmental justice.

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  • 1Department of Environment and Health, School of Public Health, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany.



Child poverty and social inequality in Western countries are growing both in scope and in complexity. The clustering of income poverty in urban settings reflects the complex process of residential segregation. Living in segregated neighbourhoods with much poverty and predominantly substandard housing is usually associated with poor physical, chemical and social environmental living conditions at the individual and community level which influence and shape children's health both directly and indirectly.


This paper shows research data on the link between child poverty and income-related health inequalities according to the unequal exposure to environmental hazards as well as the unequal distribution of environmental resources in the domestic environment and within the local context as an increasing public health issue in Germany. The links between these factors are drawn from the conceptual framework of environmental justice. Examples are shown of integrated approaches to alleviate social and environmental disparities at the community level.


The implications of environmental justice for public health include the need to uncover the link between socioeconomic factors and environmental health disparities related to the man-made environment. Developing relevant indicators for environmental inequalities in the context of housing and health is an important task for public health research. More emphasis should be placed on a comprehensive holistic approach to understand the mechanisms by which socioeconomic factors modify children's susceptibility and exposure to environmental hazards, particularly in low-income areas.

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