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Your child and the Environment Guidelines for Parents II

Part 2 What Children Eat and Drink


Of all the problems caused by our environment, lead poisoning is one of the most serious. Infants and toddlers can get sick by putting their fingers in their mouths after touching lead dust, eating lead paint chips, or breathing in lead dust. Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, anemia, or damage to the brain and kidneys. A few examples of the most common places where lead can be found are:

  • Dust and paint chips from old paint
  • Soil that has lead in it
  • Food stored in certain ceramic dishes
  • Older painted toys and furniture such as cribs
  • Tap water, especially in homes that have lead pipes
  • Paint that is on the inside and outside of the homes built before 1978

Children who have elevated lead levels may not look or act sick. The only way to know if your child has been exposed to lead is to have your pediatrician check your child’s blood.

Here are a few ways that you can to help:

  • If your home was built before 1978, consider testing the paint for lead.
  • If lead paint is found, learn about safe ways to handle it before any work is done.
  • Clean and cover any peeling, flaking, or chipping paint with a new coat of paint, duct tape, or contact paper. It is important to check for flaking paint at window areas where children often play.
  • Check with your health department to see if lead in the water is a problem in your area.
  • Ask your pediatrician about testing your child for lead. A blood test is the only accurate way to test for lead.


Children can be exposed to pesticides in the food they eat and the water they drink. They are used by farmers as well as in home lawn and garden care. Although they are designed to kill insects, weeds, and fungi, many pesticides are toxic to the environment and to people. Too much exposure to pesticides can cause a wide range of health problems.

Here are a few ways that you can help:

  • Wash all fruits and vegetables with water.
  • Use in-season produce as they are less likely to be heavily sprayed.
  • Keep all pesticides out of children’s reach to avoid accidental poisoning.
  • Notify neighbors before any outdoor spraying.
  • Use non-chemical pest control methods in your home and garden.
  • If possible, eat foods that are grown without the use of chemical pesticides.

Drinking water

Children drink 5 to 10 times more water for their size than adults. Most of this water is tap water. The quality of tap water in most areas is protected by law. Small water supplies such as those from private wells in small trailer parks or seasonal holiday communities are not. Many people use bottled water because they think it is better than tap water. Some brands of bottled water are better than tap water. However, other brands of bottled water may only be tap water that is bottled and sold separately. Bottled water is much more expensive than tap water, but may be necessary in some areas. A number of possible contaminants in drinking water can make children sick. These include:

  • Germs
  • Nitrates
  • Heavy metals
  • Man-made chemicals
  • Radioactive particles
  • By-products of the disinfecting process

Some of these contaminants are more likely to be found in surface water (water from lakes and rivers). Others are more likely to be found in ground water (water from wells and underground sources). Where you live and where your drinking water comes from have a lot do with the kind of contaminants you need to be concerned about in your water. The quality of water in the United States is among the best in the world, but problems do still occur. County health departments and state environmental agencies are the best sources of information about water quality in your community.

Here are a few things that you can do:

  • Find out the source of your water.
    • If you are on a municipal water supply, the water company is required to tell you what is in the water.
    • If your water is not regulated, have it tested yearly.
    • If you have a well, make sure your water is tested yearly and that your pump is in good working order.
  • Always drink and cook with cold water. Contaminants can build up in hot water heaters.
  • If you are not sure of your plumbing, run the water for 2 minutes each morning before using the water for drinking or cooking. This flushes the pipes     and reduces the chances of contaminants getting into your water.
  • If you have well water and a baby less than 1 year of age, have your water tested for nitrates before giving it to your baby. Breastfeeding, using ready-to-feed formulas, or using bottled water is wise until you know if your water is safe. If you have any questions, call your health department.
  • If you think your water may be contaminated with germs, you can kill most of them by boiling the water and letting it cool before use. Do not boil water for longer than 1 minute. This can cause a buildup to chemicals that may be in the water.


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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