Download this chapter
Physical safety refers to the quality of children’s natural and constructed environments, and our attempts to protect them from threats to their personal safety and well-being. This section examines some of those threats, such as environmental hazards, crime, and unintentional injuries.
Children are at particular risk from environmental hazards because their systems are still developing, they spend more time outside, and they breathe more rapidly and deeply. They are exposed to higher levels of pollutants than previous generations, and studies indicate that damage from air pollution may begin as early as in the womb. In this section of Progress, threats from ground-level ozone, fine particulate matter, lead, pesticides, and tobacco smoke are examined.
Despite parents' best efforts to protect their children, this section provides charts and analysis showing that unintentional injuries remain the leading cause of death for children and youth over the age of one. The good news is that this injury death rate is declining, but boys – even as toddlers - are at considerably higher risk for injury-related death than girls. The number of youth killed in road crashes has also been declining over the last two decades. Teenagers are less likely to drink and drive, and the use of seatbelts and bicycle helmets is up.
Despite declining crime rates, youth feel less safe in their own neighbourhoods than in the past, and many younger children do not feel safe while going to or from school.