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Children's Environmental Health Module

Children's Environmental Health Topics

Asthma

A child with an asthma inhaler

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the airways that carry oxygen in and out of the lungs. If a person has asthma, the inside of these airways is irritated and swollen. Asthma can cause shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and tightness in the chest.

Asthma is a major chronic health problem for children. It can get in the way of normal things like playing outdoors, running, and even being around pets. Taking care of asthma can also be costly for families and healthcare systems. Learn more from CDC's Asthma Control Program

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Cancer

A smiling child

Childhood cancers remain a leading cause of childhood deaths in the United States, despite the fact that advances in health care and treatment have dramatically increased survival from these cancers.

The most common childhood cancers are leukemias (cancers of the blood cells), and brain and other nervous system cancers.

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Lead

A child's hand on a window'

Childhood lead poisoning is preventable. Before some uses of lead were restricted, approximately 88% of preschool children in the United States had lead levels high enough to cause serious health effects. With less lead in the environment, lead poisonings have decreased and become less severe.

However, lead poisoning still occurs. Thousands of U.S. children aged 1-5 years have blood lead levels greater than 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (µg/dL), the level at which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends public health interventions. Read about preventing childhood lead poisoning.

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Developmental Disabilities

A girl reading a book

In the United States, about 1 in 6 children have a developmental disability. Developmental disabilities are a diverse group of severe chronic conditions that are due to mental and/or physical impairments.

The specific cause of most developmental disabilities is unknown. They may result from an interaction between genetic, environmental, and social factors. Many developmental disabilities are inherited and cannot be prevented. But some can be prevented or lessened by having a healthy pregnancy, by detecting and treating conditions early, and by preventing harmful exposures and injuries. Learn more about developmental disabilities.

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Population Characteristics and Vulnerabilities

a child playing with building blocks

What happens in a population, or a group of people, can help determine how health problems and disease can happen over time.

Characteristics of a population include:

  • Sex,
  • Age,
  • Race and ethnicity, and
  • Socioeconomic factors, such as poverty.

These characteristics may be related to the number of new and existing cases of a particular disease in children. Socioeconomic factors, such as education, occupation, and income, are conditions that may affect how children live. Poverty affects families of all races and backgrounds and especially children. Research has shown that children living in families with very little money and no health insurance may have more poor health outcomes at birth and throughout their lives.

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