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Science Wednesday: Learning to Keep Children Healthy

2009 October 28

As parents, we all want what’s best for our children and like to see them grow healthy. I have taught my daughters to wash their hands, eat nutritious meals, wear protective equipment when practicing sports, and to wear sun block. Now that they are teenagers, I talk to them about the dangers of smoking, drinking and drugs, and of course…boys. However, working for the EPA has given me an increased awareness about another set of dangers—environmental exposures.

In recent years, there has been an increased emphasis on protecting children from environmental contaminants and learning how the differences in behavior and physiology affect their exposures. I remember as a child playing with mercury, pouring it on the floor and pushing the silver blobs around with my fingers to form a bigger blob. We didn’t know it was bad for us, and neither did our parents.

Since then, the potential health effects from exposure to mercury and other toxic chemicals such as lead, arsenic, and pesticides have become the focus of environmental policies. We have also learned that diet is an important route of exposure to pesticides and other substances in the environment.

But, why are children a concern and how are their exposures different from those of adults?

Children’s organ systems are still developing and they may be more susceptible to environmental exposures. Their behavior and habits can also put children at higher risks. We have learned that contaminants can be deposited in toys and objects that children put in their mouth. Contaminants can also find their way into the milk of lactating mothers. Another example: on average, children younger than one year old inhale approximately six times the amount of air by body weight than an adult.

I love that my job helps me learn about keeping my kids healthy. But, even if you don’t work here, EPA has developed lots of useful information to share. Our Children’s Health Protection web site is a great place to start if you are looking for generalized information. One source I’ve been involved with, the Highlights for the Child-Specific Exposure Factors Handbook, provides risk assessors, economists, and others a wealth of data and EPA recommendations on exposure factors needed to estimate childhood exposure to toxic contaminants.

image of author sitting at deskAbout the author: Jacqueline Moya is a chemical engineer with EPA’s Office of Research and Development. She has been with EPA for 25 years. Her work focuses on increasing our understanding about exposure to susceptible populations.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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14 Responses leave one →
  1. gold permalink
    October 28, 2009

    Yeah, a lot of people had no idea that mercury was so bad for you. There are a lot of toxic metals out there that can be affecting our children. Thanks for raising awareness of this issue.

  2. alocious david permalink
    October 28, 2009

    this is very well messege thanks

  3. Jackenson Durand permalink
    October 28, 2009

    In my chronological analyze, the EPA concept has been issuing in objective to help people in nature conservancy, environment protective and to prevent more emission of CO2 in our O3. I think that the same idea should share to those who is looking for helping pragmatic to their children health wellbeing, will come to this University for learning about lead poisoning and This bad element chemic Hg+ for their children health protective.

  4. Johnny R. permalink
    October 29, 2009

    The EPA is focusing on the environmental behavior of citizens in and around their homes because the EPA is politically barred from focusing on the behavior of the industrial corporations and mega farms that are causing the pollution in the first place. It won’t work. As the population grows and the economy expands, the pollution inevitably gets worse, until so many millions are sick and can’t go to work, the economy can no longer function.

    To save ourselves we humans must agree to safely recycle 100% of all waste and garbage while we peacefully reduce our human population through peaceful family planning clinics in every neighborhood Worldwide. It’s both a local AND a global problem.

  5. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    October 30, 2009

    What you are doing is great work. I can remember when the toys had lead paint and also sharp and tiny parts that would easily fall off if not handled right. I think a major problem for children today is the actions of their parents. Some parents smoke an incredible amount of cigarettes every day and the kids in the house get to breath in all the second hand smoke. Then there is a new thing called “e-cigarettes” that is a battery operated device in the shape of a real cigarette that generates fumes to breath in and that smell like a real cigarette, and that the FDA has determined has many of the same types of cancer causing agents as a real cigarette. Kids might think e-cigarettes won’t hurt them if they used them. Then there are the real cigarette lighters made to look like childrens’ toys and which kids can easily and sometimes do mistake for toys, resulting in fires, deaths, and injuries. And some parents don’t know what makes a good diet so we have an epidemic of overweight kids that may have some serious health problems later on. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  6. steve johnson permalink
    December 7, 2009

    The concerns about lead (or PCB) in paint and plastic always fail to underline the real issue. Material bound in paint and plastic is fully fixed. It may carry lead as part of its make up but the lead is ordinarily not mobile. Only when the paint or plastic degrades does a problem arise. As a product degrades anything in it becomes subject to mobilization.

    Coatings and plastic are actually protected by use of lead and PCBs. That was why they were used in the first place. They were used to make the expensive paints and long lived plastics. Neglect is the real source of the problem. It creates a problem where none previously existed. Because neglect is so likely to happen, lead and PCBs are eventually mobilized. Because of that use of lead and PCBs, particularly in outdoor type products are considered an unnecessary hazard.

    In real life you can see potential problems for yourself. Plastic or paint that is faded, crumbly and ravels is suspect. It happens from weathering. If that has happened the plastic dusts and paint chips and peels. Plastic/paint dustings get on your hands upon touch and eventually some gets to the mouth. If lead had been used during manufacture, then the dust/peeled paint is not just a carrier but a distributor of health risks. Because the carrier broken down it can much more easily distribute and convey its burden of lead (or PCB) to the body during digestion.

  7. bill reagan permalink
    March 6, 2010

    If you want to keep children healthy – as well as yourself – then feel free to smoking everywhere but with electronic cigarettes. No second hand smoke – or anything for that matter.

  8. Jennifer Thomas permalink
    March 12, 2010

    Keeping my 2 kids healthy is number one in my book. Thanks for the great content that will help me accomplished this goal. One way I try to keep my kids from getting a cold is to keep their noses cleaned out. I bought a nasal aspirator to remove the mucus out of their little noses when they are starting to get stuffy. Best Regards- Jenn

  9. Andy permalink
    March 17, 2010

    More care and should be understand what product that save for children is important.

  10. Ronald permalink
    April 17, 2010

    I always was one to lean towards the side of thinking parents getting over worried to the point of hyper santization for their kids was a worrysome and growing obsession. I still believe parents have a built in capacity to know without worrying how to take care of their kids while growing up – which involves allowing them to have play time, giving them room, not worrying too much.

    But I agree now with recent issues going on in manufacturing, mass production and the amounts of chemicals that can and often do get into places they were not really intended to be (or even some cases where they did)

    There are positive Electronic Alternative Devices on the market too which can help aid in not worrying about certain types of toxins and chemicals found in smoke, smog, etc. I think it is good to use these to provide good clean air, but still let kids play and make a mess… some germ exposure is important, as is it important for the brain I think to not feel stress as a child and the ability to play as carefree as possible, having a safe environment provided by a parent can do that.

    Be aware, but don’t get an unhealthy stressful obsession that I think can be just as damaging.

  11. April 17, 2012

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  12. July 13, 2012

    Fresh Healthry Vending Workplace Wellness Programs.The epidemic of obesity among children and adults is placing the need for more accessible healthy choices. Linking this surge in weight gain to vending machines has prompted a market for health vending choices.

  13. lkoybir@gmail.com permalink
    March 12, 2013

    I will right away grab your rss as I can not find your email subscription link or newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Please let me know so that I could subscribe. Thanks.

  14. Hasselle permalink
    September 4, 2013

    Yeah, I absolutely agree with it. I want my kid to be healthy. Of course, no mom wants to have a weak and malnourished child.

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