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How to Protect Children from Environmental Risks

Adapted from the Environmental Protection Agency

Air Pollution

  • Don't smoke and don't let others smoke in your home or car.
  • Keep your home as clean as possible. Dust, mold, certain household pests, secondhand smoke, and pet dander can trigger asthma attacks and allergies.
  • Limit outdoor activity on ozone alert days when air pollution is especially harmful.
  • Limit motor vehicle idling.
  • Avoid open burning.

Lead Poisoning

  • Get kids tested for lead by their doctor or health care provider.
  • Test your home for lead paint hazards if it was built before 1978.
  • Wash children's hands before they eat; wash bottles, pacifiers, and toys often.
  • Wash floors and window sills to protect kids from dust and peeling paint contaminated with lead - especially in older homes.
  • Run cold water until it becomes as cold as it can get. Use only cold water for drinking, cooking, and making baby formula.

Pesticides and Other Toxic Chemicals

  • Store food and trash in closed containers to keep pests from coming into your home.
  • Use baits and traps rather than toxic chemicals when you can; place baits and traps where kids can't get them.
  • Read product labels and follow directions.
  • Store pesticides and toxic chemicals where kids can't reach them - never put them in other containers that kids can mistake for food or drink.
  • Keep children, toys, and pets away when pesticides are applied; don't let them play in fields, orchards, and gardens after pesticides have been used for at least the time recommended on the pesticide label.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables under running water before eating - peel them before eating, when possible.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning

  • Have fuel-burning appliances, furnace flues, and chimneys checked once a year.
  • Never use gas ovens or burners for heat; never use barbecues or grills indoors or in the garage.
  • Never sleep in rooms with unvented gas or kerosene space heaters.
  • Don't run cars or lawnmowers in the garage.
  • Install in sleeping areas a CO alarm that meets UL, IAS, or Canadian standards.

Contaminated Fish and Water

  • Be alert for local fish advisories and beach closings. Contact your local health department.
  • Take used motor oil to a recycling center; properly dispose of toxic household chemicals.
  • Learn what's in your drinking water - call your local public water supplier for annual drinking water quality reports; for private drinking water wells, have them tested annually by a certified laboratory. Call 1-800-426-4791 or contact www.epa.gov/safewater for help.


  • Test your home for radon with a home test kit.
  • Fix your home if your radon level is 4 pCi/L or higher. For help, call your state radon office or 1-800-SOS-RADON.


  • Wear hats, sunglasses, and protective clothing.
  • Use sunscreen with SPF 30+ on kids over six months; keep infants out of direct sunlight.
  • Limit time in the mid-day sun - the sun is most intense between 10 and 4.


  • Eat a balanced diet but avoid fish with high levels of mercury.
  • Replace mercury thermometers with digital thermometers.
  • Don't let kids handle or play with mercury.
  • Never heat or burn mercury.
  • Contact your state or local health or environment department if mercury is spilled - never vacuum a spill.


See it in action at the HealtheHouse built by the Children's Health Environmental Coalition.



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