Kids Health

Back to School? Here's What You Shouldn't Forget

Photo by  Scott Webb  on  Unsplash

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Post By: Molly Esselstrom, Upstream Research Marketing Manager

Back to school means many things to parents and their children. It’s the anticipation of a new year, grade, or look. The leaves changing from green to hues of yellow and red. And a never-ending checklist of things to do before the academic calendar begins once more. However, part of the checklist that often gets ignored is health. Below are four things parents should move to the top of their list this back to school season:

1) Check Air Quality: Clean air is constantly on environmental agendas on the local and international levels. A child’s symptoms are perhaps the first indication of poor air quality, including headaches, eye/nose/throat irritation or soreness, and congestion. While these are not hard and fast rules to poor air quality, when combined with widespread symptoms and sudden onset in a community, it may be time to speak with a doctor and contact your child’s school district.

2) Check Water Quality: In recent national newswater pollution has been a scare for parents sending their children to school. Besides contacting the school district to check water toxicity levels, parents can monitor their own water if it becomes discolored (rusty, green, blue), has a metallic taste, or low water pressure is combined with prolonged discoloration.

3) Asthma Risk: While often related to poor air quality, asthma deserves a bullet point of its own. Upwards of 25 million people in the US have asthma with rates often more prevalent in children than adults. Seeking an allergist to aid in the treatment of asthma will help children once again be physically active and healthy.

4) Lead Paint: Yes, even the paint in your house or child’s school should be on your checklist. Lead-based paint is a toxic metal that can pose a serious threat in and around houses, especially to young children. While many houses built before 1978 often used lead-based paint, the best way to be sure your house is free of this materials is to hire an inspector to do a risk-assessment.

For a complete environmental Report on any address, as well as Action Steps, click the button below: 

 

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Touch the Earth

From Google Images

From Google Images

Post By: Molly Esselstrom, Upstream Research™ Marketing Manager

What children learn usually stays with them into adulthood. When children learn about the environment, they become earth advocates.

Julian Lennon (yes, he's John Lennon's son) and Bart Davis recently released a children’s book called “Touch the Earth.” The book is geared toward 3-6 year old readers (and their parents of course) and is about an educational journey on a plane called the White Feather Flier. Fun fact: Julian created The White Feather Foundation for the “conservation of life” by focusing on humanitarian and environmental issues. The name is in part inspired by his father and symbolizes connectivity and peace. 

In the book, the White Feather Flier can transport readers anywhere in the world so they can help save the planet. The goal is to bring children closer to the environment and teach them to love the planet and its people. Even better? The book is interactive (not digital for a nice change) and readers are meant to ‘fly’ the plane by tilting the book to steer and zoom in as well as press buttons that have positive environmental implications in the storyline.

The book is the first in a trilogy and all proceeds will support the efforts of the White Feather Foundation.



Buy it on Amazon here.

 

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2/3 – Visualizing Environmental Risk: Lead Exposure

Image from Unsplash

Image from Unsplash

As we have talked about many times in our blog posts, lead poses a big risk to our country. Flint’s crisis was only the beginning of a conversation that should have started long before it did. Our first words on the subject should have been about prevention of lead in the water, not just eradication. Now, the fact remains that we must do something to make sure that we do not have more crises like Flint’s water.

Unfortunately, in the datasets Upstream have input since our company’s beginnings in mid 2015, we have realized that there are many areas of high lead risk – some places where it’s even higher than Flint’s. On our website, we have added a two tabs to our risk mapLead Risk Exposure and Children Under 5 – that people can use to track their exposure. Lead Risk Exposure is self-explanatory and can be used to see in what percentile of risk someone’s area is. The Children Under 5 tab speaks to our mission of fighting for children’s environmental rights and outlines how many children in a given area are at a high risk for lead exposure.

The main point of these tabs on our risk map is to make people aware of their personal environment – with knowledge leading to empowerment.


Upstream does not seek to outline correlation or causation with our datasets; we simply wish to inform and empower the public. Get your own 5 free Reports by clicking the button below.

Poisoning Our Values

Image from Unsplash

Image from Unsplash

Post By: Molly Esselstrom, Upstream Research™ Marketing Manager

Cuts to the CDC might have more impact than you think.

An article March 9, 2017 via CNN online brought to light an important policy change that will have ripple effects in health care and the environment. According to the article, “the plan to repeal Obamacare will eliminate nearly $1 billion in Centers for Disease Control & Prevention funding” which is used for preventing outbreak of diseases and lead poisoning in children.

The cut and its effects could be devastating, especially for a problem like lead poisoning which has become all too common for children. Upstream Research’s new lead risk map exposes problem areas in the U.S where residents are most at-risk, especially if they are five years and younger. In fact, this map reveals that there are dozens of other communities that have lead in the water as bad as or worse than the case of Flint, MI. Likely in most of these areas, parents are unaware of the water they are exposing their children to whether in their homes or schools.

Foundations like Lead Safe America even offer free lead test kits if you think your child might be at risk. These resources for parents are the first step in finding a solution for an ever-growing problem. As the new administration continues to repeal policies aimed at climate change and reducing our impact (and are simultaneously promoting big industry), there will likely be even more stories of lead poisoning as well as polluted water, soil and air.

Furthermore, a $1 billion budget cut to the CDC could gravely hurt the chances of addressing these problems before they become major issues. Perhaps this is where Upstream Reports steps in, as a community advocate and resource when policy is up in the air. With any address in the U.S, you can pull a Report of the environmental risk for that area. This includes lead risk, disease, overall toxicity, and other socioeconomic data in the area you input. The ability for everyone to have access to five free Reports makes this a true resource for communities that otherwise may not know what’s in their soil, air and water.

To pull a Report, go to www.upstreamreports.com.

To speak to your state official about a problem in your area, search here

#MoveUpstreamTogether

 

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In Children We Trust

Image from Unsplash

Image from Unsplash

Post By: Molly Esselstrom, Upstream Research™ Marketing Manager

Kid President is certainly a joke, a satire even, but it brings to mind an important question. What rights do the children of the United States (and the world) have? They cannot lead a country, they cannot vote, they cannot decide policy. Yet, the leaders, voters, and policies that we put in place now are going to affect them the most. Their unalienable rights should be the same as anyone else over the age of 18 and, in fact, their voices deserve to be heard as well.

Our Children’s Trust is a true illustration of children’s rights. This is a lawsuit where kids are suing the government. Let that sink in: kids are suing the government. The mission according to their website is to “elevate the voice of youth to secure the legal right to a stable climate and healthy atmosphere to the benefit of all present and future generations.”

The lawsuit is present and future-oriented, and the end-goal is to affect climate change policy and give a voice to those most vulnerable (and those climate change will most impact in future). Our Children’s Trust does this by facilitating youth programs that provide public education and civic engagement in these environmental matters. A press release on February 28, 2017, mentioned the progress of the plaintiffs and federal defendants, specifically regarding role of oil and gas industry in impacting climate change. 

A recent BBC article, “Is there a way to tackle air pollution?” by science editor David Shukman, posited this question in light of the World Health Organization’s calculation that “92% of the world’s population are exposed to dirty air.” In recent news, Paris, Athens, Mexico City and Madrid are planning to ban all diesels by 2025.

The article mentions that the University of Leicester conducted a study where children volunteered to carry around pollution monitoring devices in their backpacks. The personal monitors showed levels that were much worse than they had been expecting. The implications of such a study (and others like it) have the potential to be life-changing to many people around the world. Especially children, who are most at risk to air pollution.

Now, more than ever, is the time when children can take a stand in their environmental education and their impact. Not only is proper knowledge of environmental concerns and solutions critical to curriculums, but the empowerment of children’s voices being heard as those of the future is invaluable. When we trust in our children and give them the environment they deserve, we are making huge, forward-thinking changes that will surely benefit more than our generation.  

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By the End of the Century...

Image from Associated Press

Image from Associated Press

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan hope to cure all disease. All disease. Why the end of the century you ask? Well, besides the fact that it's a lofty goal, their daughter was born this past year and they want a healthier world within her lifetime.

That's a sacrifice worth $3 billion. 

In the official announcement (video embedded) Priscilla began the presentation by saying, “We are assembling teams that can build transformational tools that unlock a new era of accelerated progress in science and health.” In her emotional introduction, she outlines the reason they created the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) was for their daughter and for the children that Priscilla cannot save as an oncologist.

The main theme of this announcement is best shown with this quote from Mark:

Our society spends 50 times more treating people who are sick than on finding cures”

Thus, CZI was born with a team of leading scientists in the industry working with three main components, one of which is the Bio Hub. This aspect of CZI is heavily academic and research-oriented, bringing together top minds from Stanford, UCSF and Cal Berkeley.

The other two components of CZI include Transformative Technologies and Challenging Networks. The technology component is all about building new tools that can aide the scientific community in their progress to cure all disease. One such technology CZI is investing is is a “cell atlas” that helps with genomic research.

The last big component of CZI is the idea of Challenging Networks, for which the institution supports networks of investigators (virtual institutes and think tanks) with a common mission. Their ultimate goal is to have a team of 10-15 networks worldwide.

All of these components equal to CZI’s mission: to make a healthier tomorrow.

 

Watch the full video below: 

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The Home Environment

Image from Unsplash

Image from Unsplash

Post By: Molly Hover, Upstream Research™ Marketing Manager

Home is where the health is. The truth of this statement lies with children and the development of their brains, bodies, and habits from early home life. Healthy homes could refer to variety of things –mental and physical health, air/water quality, environmental factors–but all contribute to a developing child and follow him or her into adulthood. A healthy family environment could make the difference in graduation rates, behavior, and mental illness in the same way that the home’s physical environment can make the difference in cognitive development, disease and susceptibility to illness or disorders (asthma, for example).

In fact, Penn State recently announced their researchers will combine with other universities (notably, the University of  Oregon and George Washington University) to study the effects of the environment on children’s health. The project will be called “Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes” and will involve a sampling from children adopted at birth and those that live with their biological parents to “‘tease apart genetic and environmental contributions to child outcomes’” (Jaramillo, 2016).

It is extremely important to understand how our environment from an early age can have an impact in out later life, as well as understanding how our internal environment [genetic makeup] and external environment can impact how we are,’ Neiderhiser said.”


While the research has a few years until it is fully developed, the intent of the study is to highlight the importance of environmental influences on a child’s development. Taking action starts with awareness.

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Playing with Fossils

Image from Unsplash 

Image from Unsplash 

Post By: Molly Hover, Upstream Research™ Marketing Manager

It is a truth universally acknowledged that kids are curious. They love playing with the environment around them; digging in the soil, scooping water from lakes and rivers and building forts under cloudy skies. But when the same environment they love is damaging to their health, parents are faced with a heartbreaking dilemma; prevent their kids from playing outside or keep them healthy.

Families within the radius of power- or coal-plants often experience air that is less than ideal for working or playing outside. They are at risk to detrimental health effects that researchers are just now beginning to understand. Frederica Perera from the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health at Columbia University is working with colleagues on a study that looks at the “health effects of pollution and stress.”

Perera and her team are seeking out answers as to why pollution seems to affect children more than adults breathing the same air. Their initial answer:

“The immune system helps defend the body against infections and poisons, such as toxic chemicals. But in infants and children, the immune system has not yet finished developing. This means that the body is not fully protected from impacts such as breathing irritating or toxic pollutants, Perera explains.”

Children’s highly important development stage is impaired by the burning of fossil fuels and, even when the power plant may not seem close enough to harm, the affects can trickle down to the soil or water supply. Of the negative consequences are an increase of asthma and bronchitis, lowering of IQ due to affected brain cell development, and increased risk of cancer and disease.

One of the article’s largest calls to action comes at the end: “it’s important to remember that fossil fuel emissions contribute to both illness and climate change, and that children are having these health problems now.”

Now, is the time to make real change.

 

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What's In Our Air?

Image from Unsplash

Image from Unsplash

Post By: Molly Hover, Upstream Research Marketing Manager

If you can’t see something, that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Our environment has a huge impact on our health and the quality of the air we breath is an important factor. In early 2016, the air toxicity levels in Portland, OR made Oregon senators declare it a public health emergency. This was in response to Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality not revealing data they found of “toxic pollution hotspots” (www.oregonlive.com). Breathing toxic air can cause an increase in many health problems, including the risk of cancer jumping from 1 in a million cases to 1 in 4,800.

 

To test the air levels in Portland, the Forest Service used the moss growing on trees as biomarkers. In other words, the moss that was collected served as an organic pollution monitor that the Forest Service then used to create a map of high-risk areas from the data.

 

Instances like this in America can be disheartening for citizens living in areas that have known pollution–or even in areas where the pollution has just not been revealed via data. The good news? Solutions are now coming to the forefront and advocacy groups like Neighbors for Clean Air in Portland, OR are making real change.


To learn more about Neighbors for Clean Air and sign the petition, click here.

 

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Toxins in Children

Post By: Molly Hover, Upstream Research Marketing Manager

Sometimes it is only a parent’s awareness that stands between chemicals and our children”

-Penelope Chaffer

In December 2010, Penelope Chaffer and Tyrone Hayes gave a Ted Talk called“Toxic Baby,” which focused on toxins in baby care products that are transferred from women to their children. Her research and video point to an astonishing increase in chemicals available in our bodies that our grandparents did not have. This, in turn, has a drastic affect on our childhood. Some skyrocketing childhood diseases are leukemia, obesity, juvenile diabetes, and premature diabetes.

Co-speaker Tyrone Hayes is an “expert in frogs,” but his results relate to public health because of the link between pesticides and products that we consume (and are then carried over to our children) and change our bodies.


Full video below:

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Environmental Risk For Your Child's StudiesImage from Unsplash

Image from Unsplash

Image from Unsplash

Post By: Molly Hover, Upstream Research Marketing Manager

Air pollution has increasingly been on the nation’s mind–and news stations–in the past decade. It is not without significant evidence that scientists and researchers are warning the populus against the effects of long-term exposure to unclean air. While progress is being made, it is important to recognize the risks and possible preventions of air pollution, especially when young children are involved.

According to an article from UCLAEarly childhood is also a critical period for the continued development and maturation of several biological systems such as the brain, lung, and immune system and air toxics can impair lung function and neurodevelopment, or exacerbate existing conditions, such as asthma." In the delicate developmental phase, children are especially vulnerable to air pollution and its negative consequences.

This study shows the amount of toxins children are exposed to are disproportionate to their relatively small size and can come from a host of environmental pollutants inside and outside their homes.

It also offers some actions parents can take:

  • Encourage community leaders to reduce environmental threats

  • Raise awareness and educate your community and children about environmental health issues

  • Reduce your child’s exposure to chemical cleaners, smoke, and other pollutants/toxins

  • Screen for lead poisoning

  • Evaluate where you and your child live, work, and play.

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The Risk of a Toxic Environment to Expecting Mothers

Image from Unsplash

Image from Unsplash

Post By: Willow Hill, Upstream Research Director of Marketing

Children are the most vulnerable demographic when it comes to toxic, chemical exposure. This threat increases when it comes to babies in the womb. Expectant mothers are exposed to hundreds of toxic chemicals on a daily basis through household products and polluted air.  

The Environmental Working Group, or EWG, is an organization that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, agricultural subsidies, public lands, and corporate accountability. “10 Americans” is a short video by the EWG that highlights the risk of these harmful everyday chemicals to women, children and looks at ways we can begin to prevent exposure.

Their video below is a must-watch:

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