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Stay up to date with our recent research findings, news features, and publications below! Our blog is a great place to learn more detailed information about the collective nationwide network of Children's Environmental Health researchers and their findings.

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Did you know: PCBs were widely used in construction materials until 1979, meaning dozens, maybe hundreds, of Vermont school buildings could have high airborne levels of the chemicals. While the local and state governments deliberate on the best course of action to take in addressing the issue, it’s important to be aware of the indoor air quality within your home as well.

Here’s what you can do:

1. Improve Ventilation: One approach to lowering the concentrations of indoor air pollutants in your home is to increase the amount of outdoor air coming indoors.

Natural ventilation can also improve indoor air quality by reducing pollutants that are indoors. Examples of natural ventilation are:

  • opening windows and doors

  • window shading such as closing the blinds

2. Use Air Cleaners and Filters: There are many types and sizes of air cleaners on the market, ranging from relatively inexpensive table-top models to sophisticated and expensive whole-house systems. Some air cleaners are highly effective at particle removal, while others, including most table-top models, are much less so.

Air cleaners are generally not designed to remove gaseous pollutants. Check out the NYTimes list of best indoor air quality monitors: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-home-air-quality-monitor/

Another important factor in determining the effectiveness of an air cleaner is the strength of the pollutant source. Table-top air cleaners, in particular, may not remove satisfactory amounts of pollutants from strong nearby sources. People with a sensitivity to particular sources may find that air cleaners are helpful only in conjunction with concerted efforts to remove the source.

Consider HEPA air filters (high efficiency particulate air [filter]). This type of air filter can theoretically remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns (µm).

3. Bring the Outdoors In: Plants!

Over the past few years, there has been some publicity suggesting that houseplants have been shown to reduce levels of some chemicals in laboratory experiments. There is currently no evidence, however, that a reasonable number of houseplants remove significant quantities of pollutants in homes and offices. Indoor houseplants should not be over-watered because overly damp soil may promote the growth of microorganisms which can affect allergic individuals.

Plastic seems like an unavoidable part of modern life in the U.S. Waste, and how we choose to handle it, affects our world's environment. Because of the widespread use of plastics, experts are taking a closer look at the possible health risks associated with them. Extensive research has been conducted on two types of harmful chemicals in plastics, phthalates, and bisphenol-A (BPAs). In response to the extensive research on BPAs that have been published, a lot of products that historically contained BPAs, no longer contain the chemical. Early studies about the health effects of chemicals from plastics show that they may affect the:

  1. Brain

  2. Endocrine system (the system that controls hormones, or the chemicals that regulate metabolism)

  3. Immune system (the system that helps keep you from getting sick)

  4. Reproductive systems (the male and female systems that allow us to have babies)

Some plastic containers can release chemicals into the things they’re holding — like food and drinks. When people eat or drink what was in the container, they can be exposed to (come in contact with) the chemicals in the plastic. This happens most often if the food or drinks are heated in plastic containers. Plastics are not only an issue for our health, but also for the health of plants and animals everywhere. Approximately 50 percent of our plastic waste goes to landfills (where it will sit for thousands of years due to limited oxygen and lack of microorganisms to break it down). The remaining 45 percent ends up as litter in the environment where it ultimately washes out to sea, damaging marine ecosystems and entering the food chain. For example, 42% of the rivers tested in America turned up positive for Bisphenol-A or BPA. (https://www.smallfootprintfamily.com/avoiding-toxins-in-plastic) What can you do to reduce your consumption of plastic for the sake of your health and the environment?

  1. Change your diet and opt for foods that are not packaged in plastic, for example, buy eggs that come in cardboard packaging vs. Plastic.

  2. Store, reheat or freeze your leftovers in glass containers. Always remember to bring a stainless steel or glass water bottle with you as well!

  3. Bring your own reusable produce bags to the grocery store.

  4. Avoid disposable plastic or polystyrene dishes and utensils. There are some great reusable and affordable bamboo travel utensils on the market!

  5. Use cloth diapers! In the past, many people have avoided using cloth diapers because they can be tricky to use, but there are some affordable ones you can buy that have streamlined the process!

  6. Replace your school-age child’s plastic lunchbox with a cloth or stainless steel one.

Thursday, October 8, 2020 is Children’s Environmental Health Day (CEH Day). The environment is an important but often overlooked factor that influences health and developmental outcomes, especially for children, who are particularly vulnerable to these hazards. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that 34% of all children’s health issues are the result of modifiable environmental factors. We must consider environmental factors, such as air and water pollution, or toxic chemicals in consumer products because these can be modified and improved through policy measures, individual habits, community efforts, and business practices.

As with the coronavirus and so many current health crises, environmental factors are not equally distributed across race and income. Children and pregnant women from low-income communities, tribal communities, and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to these harmful toxicants, placing them at higher risk for illness and disability.

While there is an urgent need to put children and families back into the forefront of our nation’s actions regarding health and environment, we also have many children’s environmental health wins to celebrate this year. For instance, in April 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave $697,000 in grants to assist Tennessee in identifying sources of lead in school and child care facility water. Then in July, Tennessee unanimously passed HB 2017, creating stronger rules for Lead-Free Schools. This year New Jersey applied new clean water protections to 600 miles of waterways, protecting kid’s physical, mental, and emotional health. New Jersey also became the first state to include climate change curriculum in schools.

We’re excited to celebrate these and other wins, but also to commemorate the large amount of work that is still required to protect children from environmental hazards. CEH Day is a platform for ALL of us advocating for clean air and water, safer food and products, and healthier places for children to live, learn, and play. It is a way to increase visibility, make some noise, educate decision-makers, and create some real change for children's health. There are lots of ways to get involved, no matter who you are. You can request proclamations from your mayor/governor declaring CEH a priority for your community. You can join the annual #CEHchat on Twitter (this year focuses on children’s health and climate change). Or you could attend or host an event like a stream cleanup, educational panel, letter-writing campaign, or virtual watch party.

Because of COVID-19, many of this year’s CEH Day activities are going virtual. The Children’s Environmental Health Network is working with advocates, scientists, grassroots organizers, and entertainers to put on a CEH Day Livestream. Tune in 8:30 am to 7:30 pm ET for educational panels, inspiring leaders,CEH Community produced segments focusing on pertinent public health issues, fun children's read- and sing-alongs, a sustainable children's' fashion show, and the 15th Annual Child Health Advocate Awards.

We must respect the interconnectedness of environmental and human health and prioritize the health of our planet so that our children and future generations have the healthiest possible start to life

I invite you to join me and help create a better, healthier future for our children on October 8th.