Human growth and development is influenced by a several factors, many of which are beyond our control. While heredity and genes certainly play a large role in terms of determining size and health, there are also environmental factors at play. An understanding of these environmental factors can help individuals and communities to play a part in ensuring that human growth and development are not adversely affected.
People who are malnourished do not receive adequate nutrients essential for good health and proper development. According to Keepkidshealthy.org, people who go hungry or who do not eat properly are more likely to be underweight and much shorter than average. In a 2006 article authored by the Agriculture and Rural Development Department titled "Agriculture and Rural Development: Hunger and Malnutrition," under-nutrition is cited as a large-scale problem in low-income countries. It is characterized by low height for age, known as stunting, low weight for height, known as wasting, and low weight for age, known as underweight.
According to the U.K.-based website Warrington Borough Council, there is a correlation between housing conditions and ill health that can negatively impact human growth and development. Houses that are cold and damp, that lack proper air circulation, or that have high levels of mold and dust mites can exacerbate or cause various illnesses. These kind of environments are rich in airborne pollutants that trigger allergic symptoms and cause maladies such as conjunctivitis, eczema, asthma and bronchitis with repeated exposure.
Perhaps of even greater concern is the potential for lead exposure from deteriorated lead-based paint in older housing. Lead is most harmful to children because it is easily absorbed into their growing bodies and interferes with the developing brain and other organs and systems. According to Samiya Bashir's May 2002 article "Home is Where the Harm is: Inadequate Housing as a Public Health Crisis," which appeared in the "American Journal of Public Health," children between the ages of 18 and 36 months who live in poor and inner-city communities are at greatest risk of lead poisoning. Lead poisoning can result in neurological damage, reduced IQ, hyperactivity, increased aggression, learning disabilities and behavioral problem, Bashir writes.
Studies have found that some air pollutants have detrimental effects on human growth, according to the 2006 article titled "Effects of Pollution on Human Growth and Development: An Introduction," published in the "Journal of Physiological Anthropology." The article points to lower birth weights as a result of particulate air pollutants. In a European Commission study, it was calculated that air pollution also reduces life expectancy by an average of almost 9 months across the European Union. Emitted by traffic, industry and domestic heating sources, these pollutants are released in the form of tiny particles that can penetrate deeply into both the bloodstream and respiratory tissue.