Thursday, October 8, 2020 is Children’s Environmental Health Day (CEH Day)! The environment is an important but often overlooked factor that influences health and developmental outcomes, especially for children, who are particularly vulnerable to these hazards. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that 34% of all children’s health issues are the result of modifiable environmental factors. Environmental factors, such as air and water pollution, or toxic chemicals in consumer products, can be modified and improved through policy measures, individual habits, community efforts, and business practices. As with the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and other current health crises, environmental factors are not equally distributed across race and income. Children and pregnant women from low income communities, tribal communities, and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to these harmful toxicants, placing them at higher risk for illness and disability.
While there is an urgent need to put children and families back into the forefront of our nation’s actions regarding health and environment, there are also many children’s environmental health wins to celebrate this year. For instance, in April 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave $697,000 in grants to assist Tennessee in identifying sources of lead in school and child care facility water. Then in July, Tennessee unanimously passed HB 2017, creating stronger rules for Lead Free Schools. This year, New Jersey applied new clean water protections to 600 miles of waterways, protecting kid’s physical, mental, and emotional health. New Jersey also became the first state to include climate change curriculum in schools.
Environmental health advocates are excited to celebrate these and other wins, but also to commemorate the large amount of work that is still required to protect children from environmental hazards. CEH Day is a platform for all of us advocating for clean air and water, safer food and products, and healthier places for children to live, learn, and play. It is a way to increase visibility, make some noise, educate decision makers, and create some real change for children’s health. There are lots of ways to get involved as a community member.
- You can request proclamations from your mayor/governor declaring CEH a priority for your community;
- You can join the annual #CEHchat with NACCHO on Twitter (this year focuses on children’s health and climate change); or
- You could host an event like a stream cleanup, educational panel, letter writing campaign, or virtual watch party.
Because of COVID-19, many of this year’s CEH Day activities are going virtual. The Children’s Environmental Health Network is working with advocates, scientists, grassroots organizers, and entertainers to put on a CEH Day Livestream. Tune in 8:30 am to 7:30 pm ET for educational panels, inspiring leaders, CEH Community produced segments focusing on pertinent public health issues, fun children’s read- and sing-alongs, a sustainable children’s’ fashion show, and the 15th Annual Child Health Advocate Awards.
We must respect the intersection of environmental and human health and prioritize the health of our planet so that our children and future generations have the healthiest possible start to life. We invite you to join CEH Day partners and help create a better, healthier future for our children on October 8.