How the Environment Affects the Health, Safety and Nutrition of the Child

How the Environment Affects the Health, Safety and Nutrition of the Child
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Addressing the Main Concerns that Affect the Health, Safety and Nutrition of Children

The growing number of environmental contaminants and health hazards raises concerns about how the environment affects the health, safety and nutrition of the child, who is the most vulnerable member of a community. Several pollution factors like outdoor and indoor air pollution, drinking water contaminants, pesticide and other chemical residues in food and household items, have all produced alarming rates of untoward incidences.

However, these are not the only factors that affect the well-being of a child; a vulnerability to accidents and injuries, likewise, requires attention. Parents need childcare information to know how to protect their children and prevent unpleasant accidents.

The present set-up in most American households finds both parents working; hence, issues about childcare and neglect could arise. This concern includes problems about malnutrition or excessive food-intakes, as well as the child’s lack of activities or excessive activities.

Due to the precarious conditions of American children to current environmental, nutritional and social problems, former President Clinton issued an Executive Order for different government agencies to always include first and foremost in their missions, the considerations on how each agency’s actions or decisions affect the health, safety and nutrition of the child.

Effects of Outdoor and Indoor Air-Pollution on a Child’s Health

Children are highly susceptible to different respiratory ailments due to the amount of pollution taken in by their still small-sized breathing apparatuses. As a result, this particular system could cause a respiratory breakdown, particularly among children of low income families or of those below the poverty line, since they have little to no access to health care medications or medical facilities. .


Asthma is the most prevalent health disorder to affect children. The increasing numbers of child asthma sufferers and related fatalities, not only in America but on a global scale, has reached alarming levels. Asthma is now considered a major health problem and childcare providers should be aware of conditions in the environment which could trigger asthma, as well as the food and allergens to avoid to help prevent the development of asthma in children. Learn more about these factors from these related articles:

In addition, disorders of the respiratory tract could be short-term or long term, hence the administration of proper medications should be given utmost importance.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

800px-Industry smoke

This respiratory disease may be developed by children as they are exposed to second-hand smoke in the indoor air.

Air pollution within homes is often produced by family members smoking inside homes or air-conditioned rooms, because there is not enough ventilation for clean air to pass through.

Outdoor pollution and the constant exposure to thick smog coming from factories or constant exposure to polluted air of vehicles and exhaust vents can cause COPD.

782px-Pollution over east China

Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis could be mistaken for asthma, as the two are closely related inasmuch as air passageways are constricted. However, the difficulty in breathing brought about by chronic bronchitis is aggravated by the thick mucus that clogs airways since respiratory linings get irritated by cigarette smoke, smog, airborne allergens and even bacteria, on a long term basis. This condition could lead to emphysema and tuberculosis.

The image on the right is a satellite image of thick smog that has settled over eastern China’s overhead skies. Reports have it that Chinese children are greatly affected by respiratory diseases caused by the thick smog to which they are regularly exposed.

Lead Poisoning: In Low-Cost Houses, Groundwater Sources, House Paints & Other Consumer Goods

Lead poisoning - blood film

Low blood levels of lead content among children can lead to learning disabilities because lead toxicity can affect the brain and other body systems. Lead blood levels that reach high peaks could lead to comatose, convulsions and fatality. The arrow in the image points to a secondary blood film produced by lead poisoning as it appears in hematological tests.

Low blood lead is measured at 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood in babies and younger children and at this level, lead poisoning could give rise to behavioral difficulties, reduced hearing, stunted growths and impairment of the brain’s cognitive functions. Lead is harmful to pregnant women as well, since it could affect fetal development.

Some parents learn too late that their homes may contain materials that have high levels of lead content and as studies have shown, this is often true with low-cost houses. Child care givers should be diligent about eliminating and staying away from these products, particularly in households where there are children under the age of six years.

Read this article about Prevention of Lead Poisoning to learn more about lead toxicity and the products to be avoided.

Environmental Factors that Lead to Childhood Cancers

800px-US Navy 100507-N-9094S-375 Logistics Specialist Seaman Sergio Torres draws pictures with a child at the Vladivostok children’s cancer ward

According to the National Cancer Institute, the causes of childhood cancer are largely unknown. An estimated 10,400 children have been diagnosed with cancer disorders, and from those diagnosed, approximately 1,546 are expected to succumb fatally to its degenerating effects. The most common type of cancer found among those diagnosed is leukemia, followed by brain tumors and tumors in other parts of the central nervous system.

In ascertaining how the environment affects the health, safety and nutrition of the child. The most significant environmental factor suspected as a cancer-causing agent among children is the chemical food additive nitrite_._ This chemical additive is normally included as a preservative in processed foods.

Children are known to love the taste of hot dogs, sausages and bacon, just to mention a few; plus, these foods are also included as garnishments to other foods that most children like to eat like pizzas and pasta dishes. The World Cancer Research Fund has declared this chemical as unfit for human consumption due to its high levels of toxicity.

Another consumer product being linked to cancer in children is home pesticides, particularly those that contain the chlorinated chemicals called DDE and PCB. It is possible that some households do not use pesticides containing these chemicals, but the possibilities that a child could acquire exposure levels in schools and day care centers or by living in close proximity to agricultural sectors should be considered.

Exposure to ionizing radiations for those residing near nuclear power plants and chemical factories are likewise pinpointed as causes of childhood cancers.

Other causes of cancer may be genetically acquired or may have been acquired by the mother through her diet during conception. Hence, it is important for parents and those who provide child care to develop awareness of these possible cancer causing agents.

Child Accidents & Unintentional Injuries

450px-Bony sequestrum in a child femur

A global surveillance research lists the following as the leading causes of unintentional injuries among children, in and around the home: (1) Fifty-six percent involved falls, (2) 22 percent stemmed from road traffic injuries, (3) 13 percent were caused by burns, four percent of these accidents were due to poisoning and (5) one percent from drowning or incidences of near drowning.

Except for road traffic injuries, the rest could have been prevented if there was sufficient adult supervision in all instances. Children are by nature adventurous and without complete understanding about the dangers they face as they venture, explore, handle, swallow or run/dive headlong in their day to day activities. Hence, it is quite important for child care providers to keep a constant eye on their wards, because children are sometimes quick to act.

Although road accidents could not be considered preventable, since other motorists or pedestrians may be involved, the use of helmets and child-safety car seats could lessen the injuries that a child would sustain.

Environmental Factors that Affect Childhood Nutrition

The environmental elements that could affect a child’s attitude towards food and the development of eating habits are initially centered on what other family members are doing or eating. It follows that children of obese parents likewise have a tendency to become obese themselves. In the same way, picky-eaters merely acquire the same habits by emulating a member or members of the family.

450px-Variation in body fat 12577

394px-Starved girl

As a child grows, the child’s environment includes more influences. Those who spend most of their time in front of televisions will be influenced by the commercial advertisements they often see. In all probabilities, a child’s preference will not include fruits and vegetables, since there are hardly any advertisements that repeatedly depict these foods as enjoyable.

In considering how the environment affects the health, safety and nutrition of the child, it is believed that a child who does not see in his household, the same kind of food that he sees on television, has a tendency to develop food insecurity. As a result, he shows disinterest for his family’s meal, but lights-up with excitement once he sees those foods he became familiar with through television ads. The same thing is true for those who tend to eat excessively, since the TV commercials justify the amount he consumes as appropriate.

Learn about the most essential nutrients that a child should have through a separate article entitled Top 5 Essential Nutrients Your Child Needs for Proper Nutrition

Reference Material and Image Credit Section

Reference Materials:

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  • All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons