Healthy Homes for Healthy Kids

By Kathy Seikel

Research shows links between chemical exposures during fetal development and health outcomes. As a DES offspring, I am a case in point. Diethylstilbestrol (DES) is a synthetic estrogen developed to supplement a woman’s natural estrogen production. First prescribed by physicians in 1938, and used extensively in the 1950s, DES was prescribed to prevent miscarriages or premature birth. At the time, it was considered safe and effective both for the pregnant woman and the developing baby.

Thirty years of research have proven that health risks are associated with DES exposure — including risks for the offspring (what scientists now call “trans-generational effects”). In the case of DES daughters, one of these health effects is infertility.

I am blessed with three gorgeous, healthy and thriving children. I came to motherhood through adoption –not my original plan. My medical history and my work at EPA give me a heightened appreciation for the importance of reducing our children’s exposure to potentially toxic chemicals – beginning in the womb and all the way into adulthood.

There’s a lot we can do to minimize our children’s exposure to environmental contaminants – starting right in our own homes! Did you know that children can spend about 90% of time indoors and that indoor pollution sources can create unhealthy conditions for children? And did you know that prenatal exposure to pollutants can increase the risk of low birth weight, pre-term delivery, infant mortality and developmental disabilities?

So what’s a mother to do? First of all, don’t smoke at home or allow anyone who visits to smoke inside your home. Reduce pesticide use by following a prevention-based approach to pest management that focuses on non-chemical control measures such as eliminating the food, water, entry points and harborage that pests need to survive. Make sure your house is properly ventilated. Open the windows and let the fresh air in now that summer’s heat wave is over! Find out how to identify – and eliminate — environmental hazards in your home by reading “Help Yourself to a Healthy Home.”

Learn how you to promote healthy communities for healthy children, during Children’s Health Month and every month, at

About the author: Kathy Seikel is a senior program analyst with EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection where she coordinates EPA’s participation in the Federal Interagency Work Group on Healthy Homes.

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