Tips to Protect Children from Environmental Risks

All of us can take some simple steps to protect our children’s health from harmful environmental exposures. The experts at the CEHCNY encourage parents and other adults to learn more about how to protect children from environmental hazards. We invite you to read the following tips and share them with others. Don’t forget to follow through on the tips!

1. SMOKING: The most common cause of indoor air pollution is cigarette smoke. Smoke-free homes have been proven to produce healthier, smarter children. Second-hand smoke can cause asthma, respiratory problems and ear infections. It has also been associated with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). 

2. LEAD AND PAINT: If your home was built before 1970, be sure to check for lead paint. Lead dust, most frequently found on windowsills and doorframes, is created from the friction of opening and closing doors and windows. Children most often ingest lead by simply putting their fingers in their mouths after coming in contact with the dust. Only an expert should remove lead paint. NEVER remove lead paint when pregnant women or young children are in the house. Surprisingly, misguided home renovations is an noteworthy cause of lead poisoning, which can cause loss of intelligence, behavioral problems and learning disorders in children. 

3. PESTICIDES: If you have young children, using pesticides on your lawn and garden should be avoided, since many of the chemicals are neurotoxic or carcinogenic. Do not store these dangerous chemicals in your home. Pesticides should be stored safely out of children’s reach. Certain chemicals in garden pesticides have been linked to birth defects. 

4. ASBESTOS: If your basement pipes are insulated or your ceilings are covered with a sprayed or troweled-on material, these may contain asbestos. Asbestos should only be removed by a qualified asbestos contractor. Asbestos can cause lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma. 

5. RADON: Have your basement checked for radon, especially if there are cracks in the floor or if children spend a lot of time in the basement. Radon detectors are inexpensive. Gaps in the floor should be fixed. Radon has been linked to increasing rates of lung cancer. 

6. LEAD AND DRINKING WATER: If your plumbing is more than 10 years old, there may be lead content in the pipes or water. The plumbing should be tested for lead. Lead has been linked to learning disabilities and other brain damage. 

7. CARBON MONOXIDE: All fuel-burning appliances, fireplaces, chimneys, furnace flues and humidifiers should be checked regularly for carbon monoxide leaks. Wood-burning stoves must be adequately vented to prevent introducing carbon monoxide into the room. Acute carbon monoxide inhalation can lead to death. 

8. GASOLINE, OIL AND PROPANE: Gasoline, motor oil and propane should not be stored in the house or a garage attached to the house. These materials are highly flammable and can cause fatal fires. Fumes from these products can cause irritations of the eyes, ears, nose and throat. If ingested, particularly by children, the products can cause pneumonia. 

9. EATING HEALTHY: Fruits and vegetables should always be washed before eaten. Organically grown food should be served whenever possible, while the amounts of fats and meats eaten should be reduced. Teaching a child early in life to reach for an apple, instead of candy, can create a lifetime of good eating habits. Long-term benefits will include reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. 

10. WASHING HANDS: Children should wash their hands often, especially before eating. Bottles, pacifiers, and toys should also be washed frequently. Placing unwashed items in their mouths can lead to increased risk of infection in children.