Children's Environmental Health
The Future of Children's Environmental Health
With an ever-expanding population that will place more demands on natural resources and land use, we will continue to face difficult environmental dilemmas and challenges to protecting children's health. Both familiar and emerging issues will cause controversy, constructive debates, new research, and innovation. We will continue to struggle with balancing environmental and health protection with development, technological advancements, and economic growth.
The health of the population of U.S. children is better today than it ever has been and we lead healthier lives and survive into old age.
Amidst the challenges we face, it is important to remember that significant public health and medical advances have increased our ability to prevent, detect, and treat disease. In general, instead of dying in the early or middle part of our lives due to infectious diseases, the diseases that do threaten our health require long periods of time to progress and manifest. In fact, some of the exposures that children experience may result in disease that shows up in old age. Awareness of environmental impacts on children's health by parents, teachers, and childcare providers has increased and led to individual actions to reduce children's exposures. Innovative research methods have expanded the ability to study environmental and health issues in fields such as toxicology, epidemiology, exposure assessment, genetics, and engineering. Greater attention is also being paid to legal, political, and ethical issues surrounding children's environmental health.
Protecting Children From Environmental Health Risks Starts at Home
There are still many opportunities to protect children from environmental health risks. Although many environmental problems are global in nature, protecting children from environmental health risks starts at home. Families can seek out educational materials to learn about how to better protect their children from risks in the environment. Individuals can take actions to make the environments where children play, learn, and live safer, become involved in political and community organizations, and support other cooperative efforts to improve children's health. Partnerships among multiple organizations will yield the most effective and protective actions to improve children's health. The MDH regularly works with other agencies and organizations on children's environmental health issues, and has found that the most progress can be made collectively.
Included in upcoming work at the MDH will be a continued focus on improving children's health. MDH will carefully address the changes in Minnesota statute that mandates that safe drinking water and air quality standards include a reasonable margin of safety to adequately protect the health of infants and children. In the Health Risk Limits (HRL) for Groundwater rule revision, ensuring children are adequately protected is of special emphasis. In preparing for the revision, MDH staff has examined the existing HRL algorithm and its foundations in science and policy with an eye to whether and how children are accounted for within the rule. During this special examination of the rule, staff has sought out recent and ongoing research on children's exposures and risks. Staff has also communicated with other environmental and public health workers on a national level to learn about directions in environmental health policy.