Protecting water and air protects children’s health

Children are at greater risk of developing health problems due to pollutants compared to mature adults. Their small body size and developing organs make them more vulnerable to environmental contaminants.

In 2015, California had 1,533 Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) violations, meaning contamination of drinking water supplies exceeded public health limits. Four Central Valley counties (Fresno, Kern, Madera, and Tulare) were issued 40% of all such violations.

Exposure to contaminants in drinking water can result in numerous adverse health effects for children, such as gastrointestinal disorders, damage to developing organs (particularly the liver, kidneys, and brain), and cancer.

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Five Central Valley counties (Fresno, Kings, Plumas, Tulare, and Kern) averaged particulate matter concentrations that are considered to be potentially harmful, among counties with data in 2014.

Long-term exposure to high levels of particulate matter, commonly found in diesel exhaust, may be related to heart and respiratory disease, along with adverse reproductive or pregnancy outcomes, among other health problems.

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Policy Implications

To protect children’s health, federal and state environmental laws and regulations that limit harmful waste and byproducts of agricultural, industrial, and other practices should be enforced and strengthened. Environmental safeguards can be bolstered by maintaining funding for national, state, and local agencies; increasing collaboration across agencies; and requiring reporting of environmental data to the public. The Environmental Protection Agency has a leadership role in ensuring that we are all protected from environmental risks.

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