Collectivités salubres pour nos enfants
Peu de personnes voudraient argumenter contre l'importance de donner à
nos enfants un environnement sécuritaire et sain pour grandir et
apprendre. C'est dans des environnements salubres que l'on retrouve des
personnes en santé. Moins un corps est exposé aux toxines, le plus
susceptible est-il de mieux combattre les maladies virales, les blessures
et les stress.
L'enjeu est donc de nous assurer que notre environnement est
sécuritaire, spécialement celui des enfants en croissance. Cet article
étudie pourquoi les enfants sont plus vulnérables que les adultes aux
Stacey Vaeth Gonzalez
Child Proofing Our Communities Coordinator
The Center for Health, Environment and Justice
importance of children having a safe and healthy place to grow and learn
is not an issue many would debate. Healthy surroundings lead to healthier
people. The less environmental toxins a body has to deal with, the better
it can ward off viral illness, injury and stress. The question becomes,
then, what can we do to ensure our environment is safe, especially for
First, let's take a look at children's growing systems, and why they
are more vulnerable than those of adults:
to develop through adolescence. (Needleman, 1994)i
As structures and
vital connections develop during these critical years, body systems are
not suited to repair damage caused by toxins, therefore damage and
dysfunction from chemical exposures is likely permanent and irreversible.
more calories, drink more water, and breathe more air per pound of body
weight than adults. Their natural curiosity, tendency to explore, and
inclination to place their hands in their mouths opens them to health
risks adults might avoid, such as increased exposure to contaminated dust
and soil, pesticide and fertilizer residues, chemicals used to disinfect
or clean, and other potentially hazardous substances.
currently exposed to unprecedented amounts of chemicals. In one British
study, children as young as nine had on average 25% more manufactured
chemicals in their blood than their living grandparents. The children also
had higher concentrations of some of these chemicals, which are suspected
of inhibiting neurological and endocrine system development .iii
Arming ourselves with the knowledge of children's special
vulnerabilities is the first step in protecting our children; reducing
their exposure to things that might hurt them is the second step. Just
like we place a safety gate at the top of the stairs to prevent young
children from falling, just like we urge our children to not smoke, we
should also try to prevent exposures to environmental toxins.
Pesticides are proven to cause reproductive, endocrine,
respiratory, skin, and other diseases, as well as cancer. Pesticides
persist and build up if surfaces are not thoroughly cleaned, a common
problem with the budget constraints of schools. Integrated Pest
Management (IPM) is an alternative system to pesticides use, and is
proven to control pests more effectively.
One out of every three cleaning products contains harmful
ingredients that can cause skin and eye irritation, cancer, or
reproductive disordersiv. Non-toxic, effective and equally
priced cleaning materials are commercially available for home and
Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC)
Systems and Building Design
Well functioning HVAC systems are extremely important in homes and
schools. Performing annual maintenance, routinely changing the air
filters and removing anything that blocks air intake vents will help
increase air flow. Schools may face the problem of idling buses, cars
and trucks near ventilation intakes which draw exhaust into the
building. Simply creating "No Idling Zones"
near the building eliminates this direct exposure to hazardous fumes.
Outdated building design is an issue schools and homeowners can
address when planning to remodel or expand. Poor design can lead to a lack
of fresh air from inoperable windows, classrooms without adequate
ventilation from the HVAC system and dampness caused by
leaking roofs, flooded basements, or leaking pipes. Dampness can lead
to mold growth, which can cause severe
lifelong allergies, skin diseases, asthma and chemical sensitivities
in children and adults.
New construction materials can be chosen based on their
non-toxicity, such as alternatives to carpeting
(which can trap dust and debris, and whose backings will off-gas toxic
volatile organic compounds or VOC's), low VOC paint, non-toxic
cleaning products and the like.
So, now with all this knowledge, what can we do? Considering that a
United States Environmental Protection Agency review found that 43% of
the 2,863 most commonly used chemicals had no
toxicity information available, and only 7% had complete
toxicity datav, exercising prevention and precaution in our
daily actions is a must.
Actions We Can Take
Schools can improve the quality of their environments with little
change to their bottom line or daily operations. Purchasing and using
non-toxic cleaning, construction, and school supplies can eliminate
exposures to harmful chemicals. Implementing an IPM policy to replace
the use of pesticides and herbicides can greatly improve the quality
of indoor and outdoor air. Creating "No Idling" Zones on
school property can decrease children and staff exposures to diesel
fumes. Repairing a leaking roof, HVAC system, shower or sink can
decrease ambient humidity and reduce sources of mold growth. Removing
carpets in the building can eliminate sources of dust, mold and other
allergens and removing arsenic-treated wooden playground sets can
reduce children's exposures to dangerous chemicals.
Parents, teachers, staff, administration and students can take an
active role in researching and implementing protective, school based
policies and practices that protect human health and the environment.
The Center for Health, Environment and Justice's Green Flag School
helps schools develop protective, proactive and educational programs
to make their schools healthier places to learn! This flexible awards
based program is free of charge and abounds with valuable resources
and ideas for schools of all types.
On the home front, we can take protective actions today. Buying
organic food, non-toxic cleaning products, and seeking alternatives to
chemical pest management are three easy and incredibly effective ways
to reduce toxic exposures. Additionally, when doing home improvements,
seek the least toxic alternatives for house paint, deck stain,
flooring, and wood treatments. Alternatives to fit every bank account
and personal style exist - just do a little research, and you're
For more information on how to make your school and home healthier
places, contact the Center for Health, Environment and Justice at
(703) 237 - 2249 or visit us on the web at www.chej.org
Needleman, H.L. and Landrigan, P.J. (1994) Raising Children Toxic Free,
: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
Landrigan, P.J., Carlson, J.E., Bearer, C.F., Cranmer, J.S., Bullard,
R.D., Etzel, R.A., Groopman, J., McLachlan, J.A., Perera, F.P., Reigart,
J.R., Lobixon, L., Schell, L., and Suk, W.A. (1998) “Children’s health
and the environment: A new
agenda for preventive research.” Environmental Health Perspectives 106
(Supplement 3): 787-794, June.
WWF-UK Chemicals and Health campaign and The Co-operative Bank (2004)
Contaminated: the next generation,
The Center for a New American Dream, www.newdream.org/clean
Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) (1998b) Chemical Hazard
Availability Study, USEPA Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic
Available on the web at: www.epa.gov/opptintr/chemtest/haschem.htm.