Environmental Hazards and Your Child's Health:

By Let Mommy Sleep. July 22, 2013

Guest post by The Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment: A Resource for Parents

Children are routinely exposed to environmental hazards where their live, work and play; i.e., in their homes, schools, work places for adolescents, and their yards, parks, playgrounds and other recreational locations.  Parents often wonder about the environment’s effect on the health of their children.  Where can parents find unbiased and reliable information on environmental toxins and their effects on children?

The Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment serves as a FREE resource on environmental health for Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia.  Our center is based at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC and is affiliated with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Anyone who lives or works in the Mid-Atlantic region can call or email us with questions on children’s environmental health issues.

The following are some common questions we receive from parents: 

Q: The window in my home is damaged and has mold has grown around the window.  Lately my daughter has complained of headaches and has been unable to focus.  Could the mold be causing her headaches?

A: Mold exists in almost all indoors spaces.  Mold can cause allergic reactions in some people and exacerbate symptoms for those with asthma, but it does not produce adverse neurologic outcomes, such as headaches or ADHD, or infections.  Repair the damage promptly to avoid further mold growth.

Q: I purchased an older home this past winter and when I opened my windows this Spring, I found chipping paint.  Should I be concerned about lead? 

A: Lead is particularly harmful to children and pregnant women.  Any home that was built prior to 1978 probably has some lead based paint on the inside or outside of the home.  Assume that the paint is lead-based, keep it in good repair and keep house dust to a minimum.  A local health department or certified lead assessment professional can inspect your home for possible lead paint.

Q: Do pesticides in food really affect my health?  Should I be buying organic food for myself and my family?

A: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy products are necessary for a well-balanced, healthy diet.  Children can be especially susceptible to pesticide exposure, however, it is unknown if the difference in pesticide levels impacts a person’s health over their lifetime.  Some foods do have higher pesticide residues than others and if you decide to purchase organic, these should be prioritized.  The Environmental Working Group has listed the “clean 15” and the “dirty dozen” at http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/.

Where to find answers on children’s environmental health: 

Parents can contact the Mid-Atlantic Center with any questions they may have on environmental health.  Please contact us at:

The Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment
Children’s National Medical Center
Phone: 202-471-4829
Toll-free: 1-866-622-2431