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Project of the Week: EPA’s Children’s Health Month (October)

As many of you know, my wife and I had our first son back in March of this year. The guy is already crawling and chattering away…and he’s already picked up his first couple colds. So I installed a gate in our home this past weekend and we’re obviously looking for ways to minimize the impact of the sniffles and health-related snafus of first-time parents…which leads me to our Project of the Week:

I took a look at their website and learned the following about it:

Did It Really Start in the 1920s?

Yep – since 1928, the President of the United States has proclaimed the first Monday in October as National Child Health Day as requested by a joint resolution of Congress. In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics established October as Child Health Month in order to focus national attention on children’s health issues. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has reaffirmed that it is the policy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to consider the health of pregnant women, infants and children consistently and explicitly in all activities the agency undertakes.

How Are Kids’ Health Different from Adults?
Children are different from adults in how they interact with their environment and how their health may be affected by these interactions. Children eat more, drink more and breathe more than adults in proportion to their body weight; therefore, their food, water and air must be healthy if they are to thrive. Children play and learn by crawling, they put their hands in their mouths, and they spend lots of time outdoors – these behaviors can increase exposures to environmental contaminants.

For example, when a child is exercising at maximum levels, such as during a soccer game or other sports event, they may take in 20 to 50 percent more air — and more air pollution — than would an adult in comparable activity. Infants take 30-60 breaths per minute, compared to adults who take 12-20. Children’s airways are also narrower than adults, which can make them more susceptible to the harmful effects of pollutants in the air.

More data: While in 1969 almost half of all students walked or bicycled to school, today less than 15 percent perform this daily physical exercise. The decline in walking and bicycling has had an adverse effect on traffic congestion, air quality around schools, and a variety of health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

So How Do We Protect Them?
The good news is that there are many ways to reduce or prevent harmful exposures:

  • Visit the healthy school environments web site, which is designed to provide one-stop access to the many programs and resources available to help prevent and resolve environmental issues in schools.
  • Check out EPA’s home-related information for addressing potentially harmful exposures from indoor air quality, mold, moisture, radon, pesticides and chemicals, wood smoke, drinking water, asthma triggers and secondhand smoke.
  • Learn about EPA’s asthma education and outreach program.
  • Monitor the EPA website for local air quality information based on the Air Quality Index (AQI). The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern.
  • Review the annual Consumer Confidence Report for your community water system. For those that rely on well or source water to supply their drinking water, EPA’s website on Citizen Involvement in Source Water Protection provides a number of tips.
  • Find out about exposure to pesticides – many are stored in body fat and accumulate over time. Infants and small children are especially vulnerable because they absorb substances faster and have more difficulty eliminating them. EPA has tips and practices to reduce childhood exposure to pesticides.

Anything Else?
Children, by their very nature, deserve our focused attention and care. Their bodies are different than adults, their behaviors are different, and their interactions with the environment are different. Protecting the health of children is a compelling inducement to improving our environment, both during Children’s Health Month and throughout the year, in the United States and around the world.

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Henry Brown

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Protect Kids from Dangers of Lead Paint

My house was built in 1972, and I’ve never considered it old. I knew that it had aluminum wiring when we bought it in 2003, though I didn’t realize how dangerous that was. I’ve since had that fixed.

What I didn’t know until recently is that many houses built before 1978 in the U.S. used lead paint. Lead paint, if disturbed, can be extremely dangerous to young kids. It can cause damage to the brain and developing nervous system as well as slowed growth, hearing problems, and more. My twins were 4 when we moved in, so had I realized, I would have been concerned.

October 24-30 is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. You can help get the word out with these posters, e-cards and more. If you’re planning to have work done on your house, download a copy of the EPA’s booklet, the Lead-Safe Certified Guide to Renovate Right.