Children's Environmental Health: Health Hazards - EH: Minnesota Department of Health

Children's Environmental Health
Environmental Health Hazards

There are various interpretations of what hazards are considered environmental in origin. Environmental factors may include contaminants that are:

  • naturally present
  • manufactured or used by humans for a specific purpose, or
  • by-products of an activity
Naturally-Present Hazards
(spatial and temporal distribution tends not to be uniform throughout the U.S.)
Manufactured or Spread through Environment for Human Purposes
(May be presently being dispersed or previously through human use.)
By-Products of Activities and Production Processes
(Includes by-products substances that contaminate other substances.)
  • Radioactive materials such as rock and soil that emit radon
  • Metals such as arsenic that contaminate drinking water
  • Particulate matter that results from forest fires, wind, and erosion
  • Infectious pathogens that contaminate food
  • Dust mites that could cause allergic responses in sensitized children
  • Pesticides used on food crops
  • Lead used in paint or automobile gasoline
  • Bisphenol A used in plastic bottles
  • Phthalates used in children's toys
  • Chloroform in drinking water resulting from chlorination of water supplies
  • Nitrogen oxides from combustion
  • Hazardous compounds in cigarette smoke
  • Radioactive materials and their decay products present in phosphate fertilizer products
  • Children’s consumer products that ┬ámay cause choking or injury hazards or have unacceptable levels of known toxicants
  • Products designed for adult use such as cleaning products, firearms, and automobiles

For information on how to reduce or avoid children's exposure to some of these chemicals, visit Chemicals of Special Concern to Children's Health.

The built environment, consumer products, and social factors such as psychosocial stresses may also affect health in some of the following ways;

Built Environment

  • Poorly designed playground equipment or stairways may contribute to unintentional injuries
  • Urban planning that does not take into account public health may make cross walks and intersections unsafe, thereby discouraging walking and bicycling and encouraging transportation in vehicles
  • Greater automobile use can result in higher levels of pollution from exhaust, greater incidence of injuries from collisions, and lower levels of physical activity

Social Factors

(May act in combination with environmental hazards to exacerbate adverse health effects)

  • Socio-economic status of the child likely influences the amount of exposure to environmental contaminants
  • Distance the child lives from pollution sources
  • Whether the home is in an urban, suburban, or rural area
  • Condition and age of the home
  • Quality of ┬ádrinking water supply
  • Psychosocial stresses
    • Lack of supportive relationships and community resources
    • Violence
    • Financial worries
    • Risk factors for greater asthma problems for some children in inner-city environments

Additional Factors

  • Nutritional status
  • Level of parental stimulation during development

Protecting children's health from hazards in the environment requires the involvement of many parties. Professionals whose work may include some aspect of children's environmental health are trained in a number of different disciplines, including public health, environmental sciences, health sciences, health care, urban planning, psychology, education, social sciences, and others. Parents, guardians, and childcare providers certainly play a very important role in keeping kids safe and healthy as well.


Updated Monday, 04-Apr-2022 15:21:55 CDT