If you're into environmental activism, chances are good you're not really into it just for yourself. You're trying to build a cleaner greener world for the young people in your life to inherit. If that's true, you'll be cheered by a new report from the EPA.
The new edition of America's Children and the Environment, a report periodically issued by the EPA, offers a current snapshot of efforts to protect kids from environmental hazards.
So how are we doing? The short answer is not bad, but we could certainly do better.
Compared to the last time regulators checked, the report finds that fewer kids are being exposed to second-hand smoke, getting poisoned by lead, eating pesticide-tainted food, breathing excessively dirty air, drinking questionable water, and ingesting rising amounts of BPA.
That's worth celebrating, but before we break out the party hats, I should point out that it's not all sunshine and roses. The EPA also finds that exposure to certain types of phthalates and perfluorochemicals is increasing. The incidence of cancer, asthma, ADHD, autism, and obesity is growing. And low-income and minority children continue to bear an unfair share of the environmental burdens.
Clearly we've still got work to do, and we should get to it because little people face the biggest environmental risks. Pound-for-pound, they drink more water, eat more food, and breathe more air than grown-ups. They also live close to the ground, where pollutants tend to accumulate, and their undeveloped bodies are more vulnerable to disruption and lack the toxicological defenses that adults possess.
There's a lot we can't do about all this, but there's also a lot we can:
- Feed your kids a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and all the immune-building, detoxifying nutrients they contain. Dress it up if you need, but get lots of berries, broccoli, kale, beans, omega-3s and other "superfoods" on those plates.
- Consider the kinds of products that you use to freshen your air. Instead of adding chemicals into the air from scented fresheners, open your windows. Air indoors can be 2x-5x more polluted than the air outdoors.
- Leave the aerosol sprays in the can. Products like deodorants, hair sprays, and cleaners can leave chemicals in the for hours or even days after every spray.
- Don't use flea and tick collars, shampoos, and other chemical treatments for pets. Kids playing with them will be exposed to everything these products contain.
- Don't dust with dusters that just stir the stuff back into the air. Dust is a final resting place for many pollutants. Instead, use strategies like damp wiping and HEPA vacuuming that actually remove it.
- Get rid of any carpet foams you have under area rugs. These are almost always treated with unhealthy chemical flame retardants that kids can easily ingest via the dust and fine particles created as foams disintegrate with age.
- Ask your school to adopt a no-idling policy for schools buses to keep hazardous diesel fumes out of your kids' lungs.
- And yes, alternative, natural ingredient-based cleaning products and other more sustainable substitutes for conventional consumer products. But I didn't really have to tell you that, did I?
Photo: Kayak the Rockies