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FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are PEHSU?

A: The Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSU) are a source of medical information and advice on environmental conditions that influence children’s health.

PEHSUs are academically based, typically at university medical centers, and are located across the United States, Canada and Mexico. These PEHSUs form a network that is capable of responding to requests for information throughout North America and offering advice on prevention, diagnosis, management, and treatment of environmentally-related health effects in children.

The presentation, "PEHSU Program Overview December 2011", provides the PEHSU Program objective, mission and history. It also provides an overview of the PEHSU site structure, staffing and services provided.

Q: What are the common environmental hazards?

A: Environmental exposures of concern for children include biological, chemical, and radiological hazards, such as:

  • Pesticides
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Arsenic
  • Allergens
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Solvents
  • Diesel exhaust
  • Sun exposure
  • Second-hand tobacco smoke
  • Drinking water contaminants
  • Indoor and outdoor air pollutants

Q: What are some of the health concerns caused by environmental exposures?

A: Some of the diseases and health problems that children can experience as a result of environmental exposures include:

  • Asthma and/or respiratory disorders
  • Childhood cancer
  • Congenital anomalies (birth defects)
  • Developmental disorders
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Liver disorders
  • Mental retardation
  • Neurological disorders
  • Skin disorders

Q: What kind of help can I get at a PEHSU?

A: The basic services of the PEHSU network are:

Community Education and Outreach

  • Raising awareness about environmental conditions that may harm children
  • Guidance on preventing or reducing harmful environmental exposures in everyday situations
  • Providing practical advice on helping children cope and recover during and after floods, wildfires, chemical spills and other crises

Training Health Professionals

  • Conducting seminars and conferences
  • Publishing peer-reviewed articles that raise environmental health literacy
  • Translating health care research into medical practice
  • Providing on-line educational programs and case studies on environmental health issues

Consultation and Referral

Q: Are there some easy ways to reduce harmful environmental exposures and thereby protect my child’s health?

A: The Environmental Protection Agency’s “Tips to Protect Children from Environmental Risks” can be found at http://yosemite.epa.gov/ochp/ and is available in English and Spanish. The tips are also available as a growth chart which can be displayed in homes, schools, daycare centers, etc.

Q: What are some of the health concerns caused by environmental exposures?

A: Some of the diseases and health problems that children can experience as a result of environmental exposures include:

  • Asthma and/or respiratory disorders
  • Childhood cancer
  • Congenital anomalies (birth defects)
  • Developmental disorders
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Liver disorders
  • Mental retardation
  • Neurological disorders
  • Skin disorders

Potential symptoms may include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Anemia
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss
  • Behavioral change
  • Diarrhea

More information about these environmental hazards is available on the Information about Children's Environmental Health page.

Q: Are there some easy ways to reduce harmful environmental exposures and thereby protect my child’s health?

A: The Environmental Protection Agency’s “Tips to Protect Children from Environmental Risks” can be found at http://yosemite.epa.gov/ochp/ochpweb.nsf/content/tips.htm and is available in English and Spanish. The tips are also available as a growth chart which can be displayed in homes, schools, daycare centers, etc.

Q: Are most doctors and nurses trained on the effects of the environment on the health of children?

A: No, and that is why the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units exist. Among other things, we provide expert consultation and training to healthcare professionals to help them better understand the unique health concerns related to children and environmental exposures. ChIldren's Environmental Health is not yet standard in most medical and nursing school curricula and medical and pediatric textbooks may only skim health topics and their relationship to environmental exposures. Your personal healthcare professional may be very interested to know that he or she can consult with environmental pediatric professionals at these Units, and your interest in this topic may encourage more and more healthcare providers to become proficient in the topic.

Q: Does it matter which PEHSU I call?

A: Each Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit serves selected states. The Units also act as a network, and consult each other when necessary. To find help, go to Find PEHSU Experts for the unit designated to work with your state.

Q: Should I involve my child's physician when I contact a PEHSU?

A: We encourage you to work with your primary care doctor to consult the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit. If that is not possible, parents are welcome to contact the PEHSU directly. Click here to find a PEHSU in your area.

Q: Where are the PEHSU located?

A: Click here to Search by State/Country, or Search by Academic Medical Center, or Search by Regions.

Q: How is this website organized?

A: Click here to view a site map.

Links to Other Related Resources

Overview of Children's Environmental Health
Tips to Protect Children from Environmental Risks
General Information about Children’s Environmental Health
Information on Specific Health Exposures and Health Effects
Organizations with Interest in Children's Environmental Health
Resources for Community Outreach and Education
Online Tutorials and Presentations
Research on Children’s Environmental Health
Other Resources

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