Climate change poses a threat to children, who are increasingly vulnerable, depending on adults to protect them from the impacts of these changes including extreme weather events, poor air and water quality and risk to mental health. Children living in poverty carry additional burdens and risks, living in environments that consistently experience poor air and water quality from polluting industries, compounded by the effects of climate change. COVID-19 has placed additional challenges to children’s health and increases the complexity of addressing climate change and environmental justice. The intersection between climate change and COVID-19 exacerbates these existing disparities by impacting children's physical and mental health that are a direct product of poverty and structural racism. This article examines the nexus of climate change, COVID-19, and environmental justice that impacts the mental and physical health of children including anxiety, stress, adverse childhood experiences, and depression; increases in violence and aggression; and the effects of air pollution. Public health professionals and health care providers must be aware of national strategies that protect children from environmental health risks and emerging infectious diseases, such as climate change and COVID-19, respectively.

Key Take Away Points

Anthropogenic climate change poses a threat to the health of children, especially of those in marginalized communities.

COVID-19 has exacerbated these detrimental health impacts for children experiencing the effects of climate change.

There are opportunities to protect children’s health through equitable polices and programs.

Author Biography

Emma Pennea has served as MACCHE senior associate director for 5 years. She earned a BA from New York University in Medieval Studies and a Master of Science in Global Health from Georgetown University in 2018. She has co-authored several articles about per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and their risk to children’s health. Dr. Laura Anderko, PhD, RN, is the Co-Director of the federally funded Region 3 Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit, The Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment serving PA, DE, MD, VA, WV, and DC at the Villanova University M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing. Dr. Anderko is an educator and scholar in the field of public health, environmental health, and nursing, publishing extensively on children’s environmental health. She has served on several federal advisory committees and NGO boards. She currently serves as a special advisor for the National Environmental Health Partnership (APHA), Project TENDR, and on the Steering Committee of ANHE. In 2013 she was recognized by the Obama White House as a Champion of Change for her advocacy efforts in Climate Change and Public Health. Caroline Moore, MSN, RN, FNP-C currently holds a faculty position at Georgia Baptist College of Nursing of Mercer University in Atlanta, GA. She is completing her PhD (Nursing) degree at Villanova University, where she also serves as a research assistant. Her clinical experience includes adult and pediatric intensive care units and adult nephrology. Areas of research include obesity treatment and prevention and public health, including climate change, nutrition, and physical activity. Dr. Ruth McDermott-Levy is a professor at Villanova University M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing and co-director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment. With nurse colleagues around the U.S., she developed recommendations and teaching strategies to incorporate environmental health and climate change into the nursing curricula. Dr. McDermott-Levy is a co-editor of an open-access environmental health textbook for nurses, Environmental Health in Nursing. In 2018, she received the Fulbright-Saastamoinen Foundation Health and Environmental Sciences Award for Teaching and Research where she used this grant to research the health impact of climate changes in Finland. She is the 2020 recipient of the Charlotte Brody award from Health Care Without Harm. Her current research is the examination of climate change adaptation of community-based organizations to meet the needs of their clients.


Funding Information The Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment is supported by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), cooperative agreement award number NU61TS000296-02-02. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) supports the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSU) by providing funds to the ATSDR under Inter-Agency Agreement number DW-75-95877701. The contents of this manuscript are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of ATSDR.