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Your child and the Environment: Guidelines for Parents I

Part 1 Where Children Live

Environmental hazards at home?

Believe it or not, there can be environmental hazards in the home that are harmful to children. Some of these things are in the air they breathe, or in the dust and dirt found in homes and yards. Air pollution inside the home can be harmful to children. Indoor air pollution is caused by a buildup of gas or other chemicals inside a building. Some examples include: environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), carbon monoxide, radon, household products, molds, on-the-job hazards brought into the home, and asbestos.

Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS)

ETS is the smoke that is breathed out by a smoker. ETS is also the smoke that comes from the tip of a lit cigarette. Exposure to ETS happens any time someone breathes in the smoke that comes from a lit cigarette, pip or cigar. ETS contains many dangerous chemicals that have been proven to cause cancer. ETS exposure has been linked to 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year in people who don’t even smoke!

Here’s what you can do to help stop it:

  • If you’re a smoker, quit!
  • Don’t let people smoke in your house or car.
  • Choose a babysitter who doesn’t allow smoking in the house.

Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that has no taste, color, or odor. It is produced by appliances or heaters that burn gas, oil, wood, propane, or kerosene. Carbon monoxide can get trapped inside the home when, for example: a stove or furnace is not working properly due to a clogged chimney or vent. Another example is leaving a car running in an attached garage. Carbon monoxide poisoning is very dangerous. This is especially true for children because they are smaller and need more oxygen than adults. Be aware of flu-like symptoms (headache, fatigue, nausea), especially if they affect everyone in your house at the same time or go away when you leave the house. If left unchecked, exposure to carbon monoxide can lead to memory loss, personality changes, brain damage, and death.

 Here’s what you can do to help stop it:

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home, especially near bedrooms.
  • Never use a charcoal grill inside the home or in a closed space.
  • Never use the oven to heat your home.
  • Have furnaces, wood stoves, fireplaces, hot water heaters, ovens, ranges, and dryers serviced and inspected at least every year.
  • Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even if the garage door is open.


Radon is a gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium in rock and soil. Radon can also be found in water, building materials, and natural gas. Radon can seep into a home through cracks in the foundation, floors, and walls. High levels of radon have been found in homes in many parts of the United States. Breathing in radon does not cause health problems right away. However, over long periods of time, it can increase the risk of lung cancer. Radon is believed to be the second most common cause of lung cancer (after smoking) in the United States.

Here’s what you can do to help stop it:

  • Check with your health department to see if radon levels are high in your area.
  • Test your home for radon. This is easy and inexpensive using radon detectors. The results can be analyzed by a certified laboratory. You cannot test yourself or your child for radon exposure.
  • If radon levels in your home are too high, contact the Environmental Protection Agency and ask about their booklets on reducing radon risk or call the Radon Hotline at (800)767-7236.

Household products

Many homes contain products that can be environmental hazards like cleaning products, drain cleaner, and antifreeze. These common household products give off dangerous fumes or leave residues. Many can be harmful if they are not thrown away properly (for example, if they are left in the garage).

Here’s what you can do to help stop that:

  • Store them in a safe place.
  • Always use adequate ventilation.
  • Dispose of empty containers through your local hazardous was disposal center.
  • Only use these products when necessary.


Molds grow almost anywhere and can be found in any part of a home. Common places where molds grow include: damp basements, closets, shower stalls and bathtubs, refrigerators, air conditioners and humidifiers, garbage pails, mattresses, and carpeting. Molds can cause health problems in children. Children who live in moldy places are more likely to develop allergies, asthma, and other health problems.

Here’s what you can do to help stop that:

  • Keep the surfaces in your home dry.
  • Wet items (such as carpeting that cannot be dried) should be thrown away.
  • Keep air conditioners and humidifiers clean and in good working order.
  • Use exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom to help keep the air dry.
  • Avoid using items that are likely to get moldy like foam rubber pillows and mattresses.

On the job hazards brought into the home

Sometimes a parent’s job can create environmental hazards to children. This can happen when lead, chemicals, and fumes from the workplace are brought into the home on skin, hair, clothes, or shoes. People who work in the following areas are most at risk for brining chemicals into the home:

  • Painting and construction sites
  • Auto body or repair shops
  • Auto battery and radiator factories
  • Shipyards
  • Area in which the person comes into contact with harmful metals or chemicals

Here’s what you can do to help stop that:

  • Find out if you are exposed to lead, asbestos, mercury, or chemicals on your job.
  • If so, shower and change out of work cloths and shoes before coming home.
  • Wash the work clothes separately from other laundry.


Asbestos is a natural fiber that was commonly used in schools and home for fireproofing, insulation, and soundproofing between the 1940’s and 1970’s. Asbestos is not dangerous unless it becomes crumbly. If that happens, asbestos fibers can be released into the air and breathed into the lungs. Breathing in asbestos fibers can cause chronic health problems, including a rare form of lung cancer. Schools are required by law to either remove asbestos or make sure that children are not exposed.

Here’s what you can do to help stop that:

  • Do not allow children to play around exposed or deteriorating materials that may contain asbestos.
  • If you think there is asbestos in your home, have a professional inspect it.
  • If your home has asbestos in poor condition, use a certified contractor to help solve the problem. You could have more problems if the asbestos is not removed safely.


Information on this site is intended for Angel Kids Pediatrics patients only. Always consult your doctor before beginning, modifying, or discontinuing any treatment plan.

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