Some of the most serious health problems for children may start at home. This booklet explains some of these health concerns and what you can do about them.
Most people spend over 90% of their time indoors.
Is the air in your home healthy? The air inside can be more harmful to your family's health than the air outdoors. Air can be unhealthy if it has too many pollutants. Indoor air pollutants can be lots of things—from oven cleaner to cigarette smoke to mold. It is not always easy to tell if your home has unhealthy air. You may notice bad smells or see smoke, but you cannot see or smell other dangers, like carbon monoxide or radon. This chapter will help you learn if your home has healthy air. See page 6.
The number of children with asthma has doubled in the past 10 years.
1 in 15 children under 18 years of age have asthma.
Asthma & Allergies
Allergies and asthma are health problems that have a lot to do with the air you breathe. You and your children spend a lot of time at home, so the air inside needs to be clean. Does someone you live with smoke? Do you have pets? Is your basement damp? These may cause or add to breathing problems. To learn more about asthma and allergies, see page 11.
Mold & Moisture
Other health and safety problems may come from the air in your home too. Too much dampness causes mold to grow. Some mold is very harmful and some can make allergies or asthma worse. See page 17 to find out more about mold.
If they are not working right, stoves and heaters may cause a deadly gas called carbon monoxide to build up. You cannot see or smell this danger, but you can help keep your loved ones safe from carbon monoxide poisoning. See page 23 to learn more about how to protect your family from carbon monoxide.
Can your children be poisoned by lead in your home? Some house paint and water pipes contain lead. This metal can poison your children. Most problems with lead come from old paint. Lead was also in gasoline and got into the soil and air from car exhaust. It's not used in these ways any more. There's still plenty of lead around though.
Lead can poison your children if they get it into their mouths or breathe it in from the air. If a pregnant woman gets lead in her body, it can harm her unborn baby.
Lead poisoning can be a serious problem for young children. It can cause problems with learning, growth, and behavior that last a lifetime. Even small amounts of lead can harm children.
Turn to page 29 to find out about lead poisoning
Turn to page 29 to find out about lead poisoning
One in 20 American children have too much lead in their bodies.
Is your drinking water safe? Do you know where your drinking water comes from? If it comes from your own well, you need to make sure it is safe to drink. Have your water tested every year to make sure it does not have chemicals or other pollutants in it that can make your family sick. There are things you can do to take care of your well and keep the water clean. See page 35 for ideas.
You may get your drinking water from a water company or utility. They always test the water before they pipe it to you to make sure it is safe. You can ask the company or utility for a report on what the tests found. Even if it is o.k. at the water utility, water can still become unsafe after it comes into your home. Look at page 33 to see if your water is safe to drink.
95% of people living in rural areas use private wells for their drinking water.
What harmful products do you have in your home? Some products can harm your family's health if you do not use them in the right way. Common chemicals like bleach, rat poison, paint strippers, and drain cleaners can be dangerous. Children can poison themselves if they get into products like these. Even very small amounts of some chemicals can cause health problems if you touch them or breathe them in. Remember—if you spray or pump something, it goes right into the air. When you and your family breathe, those chemicals go into your bodies. See page 38 to learn more about how to use, store, and dispose of household products.
Thousands of children die each year from chemicals stored and used improperly in the home.
Do you use pesticides in your home? Almost every household uses pesticides. Bug spray, flea powder, rat poison, and garden weed killer are all types of pesticides. They have chemicals in them that kill pests. This also means they may harm you and your family. If you do not use them safely, some pesticides may cause serious health problems—poisoning, birth defects, nerve damage, and even cancer.
Your children can come into contact with pesticides in many ways. You can take simple steps to protect them from pesticides. See page 42 to see if you are using pesticides safely!
Nearly one-half of households with a child under age five had pesticides stored within reach of children.
Did you know that your chances of getting hurt at home are much higher than they are at work or school? The leading causes of death in the home are falls, drowning, fires, poisoning, suffocation, choking, and guns. Very young children and older adults are the people most likely to get hurt at home. It's important to keep people's age in mind when thinking about home safety.
Look at page 48 to find out if your home is a safe place to live and how to make it even safer.
Each year, accidents in the home hurt over six and a half million people.
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