Even though Children’s Health Month is nearing its end, I have plenty of reasons to stay invested in the well-being of kids. Aside from working in the children’s environmental health field, I am a parent to a toddler and pregnant!
This viewpoint has its pros and cons. On the one hand, I have access to the latest science and advice about how to protect my children from environmental health threats. On the other hand, all this information can make me a bit paranoid!
For instance, pregnant women can no longer worry only about eating sushi or soft cheese. Moms also have to watch for toxins in our water bottles, personal care products, household items, food and the baby’s toys and plastic bottles. It is overwhelming and confusing—even to a person who works on these problems.
During my first pregnancy, I was the model pregnant woman—I ate organic, didn’t use plastics and bought the “right” products. However, when my first daughter was born extremely premature – she was born 3 ½ months early and weighed 1 ½ lbs.—I realized just how little control I really had over her health and exposures. She had plastic tubes all over her and inside her keeping her alive and was pumped full of antibiotics and medications that saved her life. All of these early exposures have risks associated with them, however.
Millions of parents can tell a similar story. Try as we may, we can’t control many of the factors that affect the health of our children. What we can do is be educated and proactive. It is part of my job to help elevate the discussion among researchers, environmental health professionals, and healthcare providers about children’s health. More importantly, I want to bring the discussion down to the street level where I and millions of other parents and parents-to-be are looking for guidance.
Moms and dads should not have to be toxicologists to protect their children. My hope is that we can advance science in these areas and make good use of the knowledge between doctors, scientists, policymakers and parents to better protect the health of our kids.
About the author: Margo Young is the Children’s Health Coordinator for EPA Region 10. She works in EPA’s Seattle office.