Children's Environmental Health

The environment affects our children more than it does adults for various reasons (read on below). The Thunder Bay District Health Unit’s role is to inform the public about these risks and provide information on how to reduce them. We want to help you ensure your children – and all children living in the district – have a healthy environment to grow and live. Please see Related Info to the right for downloadable resources on Children's Environmental Health.


Why are Children and Pregnant Women More at Risk to Contaminants?

  • Children eat, drink and breathe more than adults. They also have a faster metabolism and tend to be exposed to more contaminants found in the air, soil, dust, water, food and consumer products.
  • Children do things differently than adults. Small children explore the world by crawling and are closer to the ground where more contaminants are found. Children tend to put dirty hands and objects in their mouths.
  • Children go through many growth and development stages. There are many different stages of growth from conception, birth and childhood to 18 years of age. Exposure to contaminants at various stages can affect how a child develops.
  • Risk is greatest in the womb. Different organs and systems develop during the nine months of pregnancy. Many contaminants easily cross the placenta and reach the fetus. Even low levels of exposure to certain chemicals can affect the health of a developing fetus.
  • Children have a longer lifetime ahead of them. Some contaminants can build up over time and be stored in body fat, bone or brain tissue. Health problems may not become obvious for a long time, even into adulthood.


What types of Contaminants are Found in the Environment?

There are many types of contaminants found in the indoor and outdoor environment. We all come into contact with them through air, consumer products, dust, food, soil and water. However, as mentioned above, children are more affected by contaminants.

Some common contaminants that can harm our children include:

  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Second-hand smoke (tobacco)
  • Pesticides
  • Outdoor pollutants
  • UV rays

View Types of Contaminants in the Environment (PDF) for a more complete list with including where they can be found.


How Can I Help Reduce the Risks?

We cannot control everything about our environment but simple lifestyle changes you do at home or at work can create a healthier environment. These handy checklists can help identify potential hazards, and give you ideas on how to avoid them.


Information Sessions

The TBDHU offers “Train the Trainer” sessions and other presentations to help groups and organizations learn more about environmental health and the impact on our children. Presentations cover the following topics:

  • Smart and Not-So-Smart Plastics – types of plastics, handling, disposal, and health hazards, particularly to children and pregnant women
  • Personal Care Products and Your Health – the health and environmental hazards in personal care products such as cosmetics
  • General Indoor Air/Children’s Environmental Health Issues – what kinds of contaminants are indoors, why children are at higher risk, and what we can do to reduce the risk
  • Green Washing – some cleaning products that claim to be “green” do not meet certain standards, though there are some things to look for

For more information or to book your free session for your group, organization, or workplace, please contact the TBDHU at the number below.


For Further Information

Please call the Children's Environmental Health lead nurse at 807 625-5900

Or toll-free 1-888-294-66630

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