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Creating an Environmentally Healthy Home

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All children need a safe and healthy home.  Children spend around 90% of their time indoors, and most of that in their bedrooms.  The relationship between the home environment and human health has been well established.  Children are particularly susceptible to environmental toxins in the home and the impact that these toxins have on their developing bodies.

How can you make a healthy home? The following are some issues which can affect the health of a home, and some steps to take to reduce hazards.

by: The Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment at Children’s National Medical Center

All children need a safe and healthy home.  Children spend around 90% of their time indoors, and most of that in their bedrooms.  The relationship between the home environment and human health has been well established.  Children are particularly susceptible to environmental toxins in the home and the impact that these toxins have on their developing bodies.

How can you make a healthy home? The following are some issues which can affect the health of a home, and some steps to take to reduce hazards.

Mold exists in almost all indoors spaces.  Small amounts of mold are not generally a concern, and the best way to prevent mold is to prevent the accumulation of moisture.  If mold has started to grow, identify the source of moisture and have it repaired.  It can cause allergic reactions in some people and exacerbate symptoms for those with asthma, but it does not produce adverse neurologic outcomes or infections.

Radon is colorless, odorless and tasteless, and can enter the home through the basement, cracks in the floor and the water supply. Radon occurs naturally in the geologic formations of the Mid-Atlantic; however, decaying radon emits radiation, which when inhaled over time, can lead to the development of lung cancer.  Testing for radon can be done easily and inexpensively through home radon kits available at most hardware stores.  If radon is detected in your home, work with a certified Radon Contractor to determine where radon is entering the home and to have these areas remediated.

Lead has long been known to impair neurodevelopment and is particularly harmful to children and pregnant women.   Homes built prior to 1978 are likely to have lead present in paint.  Your local health department may be able to provide lead testing for your home, or you can contact a certified lead risk assessor to determine if your home has lead.  Reduce your child’s exposure by keeping your home clean and free of dust and by making sure to wash your child’s hands before meals and sleeping.

Household chemicals are found in products around the home such as cleaners, laundry products and paints.  Keeping chemicals stored safely away from children is important, but your child can still be exposed to hazardous chemicals in these products when they are sprayed into the air and applied to surfaces.  Consider using natural and less toxic cleaning products such as baking soda, vinegar and liquid soap.

Pesticides are chemicals used to kill pests such as insects, rodents and weeds.  Low levels of exposures to pesticides are associated with decreases in short-term memory, attention span, childhood leukemia and brain tumors.  Before using pesticides, try using the least toxic methods first, such as mousetraps, sealing cracks and holes, reducing moisture and keeping trash covered.

Where to find answers on children’s environmental health:

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.  More information is available at: www.childrensnational.org/macche

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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

Email: macche@cnmc.org

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