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The Environment and Human Health

Author(s): Nancy P. Moreno, PhD

Susceptible Groups

Poor and minority communities are more likely than others to be located in less desirable locations, closer to pollution sources and other environmental hazards. Poor quality housing may have lead-based paints, which are toxic; and/or insects or mold that can trigger allergies and asthma in susceptible individuals. In addition, low income groups may have reduced access to preventive health care and treatment. 

Children are particularly vulnerable to environmental contaminants. Because children take in more air, food and water, per unit weight, than adults do, they have greater exposure, proportionately, to toxins than do adults. In addition, children’s developing nervous, respiratory, reproductive and immune systems are more susceptible to damage than are fully developed systems in adults. 

Children’s behaviors also can put them at greater risk. They generally spend more time outdoors than adults do, are more likely to ingest toxicants (such as paint chips) through hand to mouth contact, and breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults do. Finally, children have longer life spans over which to develop disease than do adults.


Funded by the following grant(s)