Josie Willis, CSW ,CEC Community Resource Coordinator, OpEd on Children's Environmental Health

Josie Willis, CSW ,CEC Community Resource Coordinator, OpEd on Children's Environmental Health

Photo of Josie Willis, CSW

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (November 9, 2021)- Most people would say that a child’s safety is a common priority for parents. However, many of those safety concerns are ones that are unseen such as environmental factors that pose very real and dangerous threats to children across the globe. Although most parents are vigilant when it comes to their child’s health, environmental health concerns are often related to what may be in the child’s physical environment, such as industrial plants, factory farming, the quality of the materials used to build houses or apartments, and even the types of plastic materials that certain toys are made of. As children’s bodies are still in the process of developing, they are more susceptible to health issues caused by environmental factors than adults. Exposures that may be worse for children include lead and heavy metal poisoning, air pollution, lack of access to clean drinking water, electronic waste, and climate change. The exposures often vary significantly based on disparities in socioeconomic and minority status and geographic circumstances and continue to disadvantage various populations. For example, children within neighborhoods surrounding high levels of industry experience poorer health outcomes than those within neighborhoods with high levels of uncontaminated green space.

Because there is abundant scientific evidence of these differences in child health outcomes based on environmental exposures, safety must be focused on priorities in the areas of prevention/education, screening, early intervention, and advocacy. Promoting environmental health literacy among healthcare providers and the public; screening protocols at primary/pediatric care settings; more transparency from corporations about their waste elimination, and advocacy for stricter standard of compliance laws and regulations for larger industrial operations are essential to our children’s health. Let’s be committed to children’s environmental health remembering that “Children are one third of our population and all of our future”.

The above OpEd was written by Josie Willis, MSW.

Willis is the Community Resource Coordinator for the CIEHS Community Engagement Core. 

OpEd featured in the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Murray Ledger & Times