Idaho CareLine: Dial 2-1-1 or 800-926-2588
Children's Health and Environmental Hazards
Children, from conception through adolescence, are affected by environmental exposures differently than adults because their bodies, behaviors, and diets are different. They cannot be considered "little adults" when it comes to exposures to environmental hazards.
In the first two years of life, a child goes from a single cell to a laughing, bright, friendly human being. At no other time does a child grow and develop so quickly. During this rapid growth, there is greater risk that exposures to environmental hazards may cause permanent damage. At birth, a child's body systems are not fully developed. Their bodies cannot breakdown and get rid of toxins (substances that can cause illness) easily. This is why children are at greater risk of illness from exposures to environmental hazards.
A child's behavior also can put him at risk from environmental hazards. Children spend many hours close to the ground where they may be exposed to toxins in dust, soil, and carpets. Also, pesticides or other chemicals used in the home may be in the air close to the ground. Children frequently put their hands and other objects in their mouths. This can expose them to toxins like lead in paint dust or paint chips. In addition, children also spend more time outdoors than most adults. They breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults, and their lungs are still developing. Because of this, they have a greater exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution.
Finally, a child's diet is different than an adult's in important ways. Children eat more fruits and vegetables and drink more liquids in proportion to their body weight. An average one-year-old eats two to seven times more grapes, bananas, pears, carrots and broccoli than an adult. Their potential exposure to toxins like lead, pesticides, and nitrates is greater.
What can you do to protect your child from environmental hazards?
If you live in an older home
For more information on how to protect your child from environmental hazards, call the 2-1-1 Idaho CareLine at 2-1-1 or (800) 926-2588, or the Bureau of Environmental Health and Safety at 208-334-5544.
Article written by Jean Woodward, Health Education Specialist, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.