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The National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (EPHT) is helping us understand more about the relationship between children’s health and the environment.  The environment affects children differently than adults.  Because their bodies are still growing, children are at greater risk if they are exposed to environmental contaminants.  For example children living in older homes with lead-based paint can get sick from breathing lead dust or swallowing chipping paint.

Key Facts

  • Children breathe more air, drink more water, and eat more food per pound of body weight than adults.
  • In Massachusetts 12.4 % of children ages 5-14 have asthma (School-based Pediatric Asthma Surveillance 2014).
  • About 12,500 children and adolescents under the age of 20 are diagnosed with cancer each year.
  • Childhood cancer is difficult to prevent because very little is known about what causes it. Childhood cancers, like adult cancers, may be the result of a mix of genetic, environmental, and behavioral causes, not just one factor by itself.
  • Children are more vulnerable to lead poisoning than adults. The first 6 years, particularly the first 3 years of life, is the time when the brain grows the fastest.  The normal behavior of children at this age—crawling, exploring, teething, putting objects in their mouths—may put them into contact with any lead that is present in their environment.
  • Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and at very high levels, seizures, coma, and even death.
  • No safe level of lead exposure has been identified.
  • Today at least 4 million households have children living in them that are being exposed to lead.

The Massachusetts Environmental Public Health Tracking Network has data on a variety of children’s health issues that can be affected by environmental factors -including asthma, cancer, childhood lead poisoning, and developmental disabilities.   Learn more at

Written By:

EPHT Program Manager and Epidemiologist in the Bureau of Environmental Health

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