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Tips for Protecting Children from Environmental Threats
By: EPA Newsroom

Children face potential environmental threats everyday in their homes, schools, and playgrounds. They are particularly vulnerable to pollutants and toxins because their patterns of behavior are different from adults and their bodies are still developing.

Children's bodies are less able to process and eliminate environmental pollutants than adults. Pound for pound, a child breathes more air, drinks more water and eats more food than adults, so it is especially important to protect the air kids breathe, the water kids drink and the food kids eat from environmental contaminants of any kind.

EPA's Office of Children's Health Protection provides information, technical assistance and other support to help parents and teachers better understand the environmental threats kids face everyday.

Below are "Tips for Protecting Children from Environmental Threats" that will give you a snapshot view of what you can to do to protect kids from some of the major environmental threats to their physical well-being. Knowing about the environmental threats kids face is the first step to protecting them.

Tips for Protecting Children from Environmental Threats

Help your children breathe easier:

  • Don't smoke or let others smoke near your kids.
  • Keep your home and pets as clean as possible. Dust, mold, certain insects, and pet dander can trigger asthma attacks and allergies.
  • Limit outdoor activity when air pollution is bad such as ozone alert days.

    Protect your children from lead poisoning:

  • Wash children's hands before eating and wash bottles, pacifiers, and toys often.
  • Wash floors and windowsills to protect kids from dust and peeling paint contaminated with lead - especially in older homes.
  • Run the cold water for 30 seconds to flush lead from pipes.
  • Get kids tested for lead - check with your doctor.

    Protect your children from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning:

  • Have fuel-burning appliances, furnace flues and chimneys checked once a year. Never use gas ovens or burners for heat and never use barbecues indoors.
  • Never sleep in rooms with unvented gas or kerosene space heaters.
  • Don't idle cars or lawn mowers in the garage.
  • Install a UL approved CO detector in sleeping areas.

    Keep pesticides and other toxic chemicals away from your children:

  • Put food and trash away in closed containers to keep pests from coming into your home.
  • Don't use pesticides if you don't have to - look for alternatives.
  • Read product labels and follow directions.
  • Use bait & traps instead of bug sprays when you can and put where kids can't get them.
  • Store where kids can't reach them and never put in other containers that kids can mistake for food or drink.
  • Keep children, toys & pets away when using pesticides and don't let them play in fields, orchards and gardens after pesticides have been used.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables under running water before eating.

    How to protect your children from too much sun:

  • Have them wear hats, sunglasses, and protective clothing.
  • Use sunscreen on kids over 6 months and keep infants out of the sun.
  • Keep them out of the mid-day sun - the sun is most intense between 10 AM and 4 PM.

    How to safeguard your children from high levels of radon:

  • Test your home for radon with a home test kit.
  • Call your state radon office if you learn that the radon level is 4 pCi/L or greater.

    The Office of Children's Health Protection supports community efforts to protect children from environmental health threats through the Child Health Champion Campaign. The Child Health Champion Resource Guide provides over 240 resources that can assist communities in their efforts to identify and address environmental threats to their children's health. The Children's Environmental Health Yearbook, provides an inventory of all EPA activities related to protecting children from environmental threats.

    Teachers: Would you like to teach about environmental health, but need more background, or maybe some simple activities? Visit the following links from EPA's Teacher's Page, and Children's Health Page to get started. We put together a collection of fact sheets, brochures and web pages that you can use to teach about environmental health. These resources offer basic and clear information to assist you in teaching your students about the environment.

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