Children’s Health Month

 By Aaron Ferster

Chidren's Health Month LogoI can’t remember exactly when I turned against the “three second rule”—that myth that the piece of food you just dropped is safe to eat as long as you retrieve it from the ground within three seconds. It was probably shortly after my own kids first started to attempt to walk and snack at the same time, another exciting, terrifying period when you feel the need to watch their every move. 

Witnessing your kid stick even one, dirt-and-leaf-covered lollipop back into their mouths after fishing it out of the playground mulch pit will convert even the most ardent three-second-rule devotee.

Picking food up from the ground, playing in dirt, exploring the world through touch and taste are a normal part of child development: they are also some of the many behaviors that may mean trouble for young children.  From an environmental health perspective, these types of behaviors may increase the risk of exposure to potentially harmful chemicals or pesticides.

What’s more, pound-for-pound children eat, drink, and breathe in more than do adults. And because their bodies are still growing and developing, children are often more vulnerable to the ill effects of environmental exposures from pesticides and other chemicals.

Keeping children safe is the focus across the government this month: Children’s Health Month. As the Proclamation released by President Obama stated earlier today:

A safe environment in which our children can live and grow is essential to their well-being. Because clean water is the foundation for healthy communities, we are working to reduce contaminants in our drinking water by updating standards and better protecting our water sources from pollution. We are also building on the successes of the Clean Air Act to improve our air quality and help decrease harmful toxins that can lead to acute bronchitis, asthma, cancer, and impaired development.

Clean water, clean air, and fewer toxins in the environment will certainly go a long way toward protecting children. EPA scientists have been working to support efforts to achieve those goals for more than four decades.

Today, EPA research is providing a better understanding of how young people at every stage of development can be exposed to harmful substances in the environment, and what those exposures might mean to their health today and well into the future.

What those scientists and their partners are learning has real impact, supplying real-world information and illuminating actions that parents, teachers, nurses, doctors, public health officials, and others can take to protect children. It’s enough to permanently retire the old three-second-rule.

We’ll be sharing stories from that work throughout the month right here on It All Starts with Science. Please check back to learn more.  

About the Author: EPA science writer Aaron Ferster is the editor of the “It All Starts with Science” blog, and the father of two teenage daughters. 

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