Pani Shoja, MD

Pani Shoja, MD

Our environment includes everything around us—the air we breathe, the water we drink, the places where our food is grown or prepared, our school, workplace, and our home. When the environment exposes us to toxic substances, health can be affected negatively. This is especially true for children.

Recently, the Hawaii Department of Health, the Region 9 EPA, health-related departments of the University of Hawaii, and the Western States Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit sponsored the Children’s Environmental Health Symposium in Honolulu to address some of the risks children face.

Vog, pesticide use and exposure to heavy metals were some of the main issues addressed at the conference.

  • Elevated levels of air pollutants that make up vog have been linked to breathing problems and an increase in emergency and urgent care visits among children with asthma.
  • According to the Hawai`i Center for Food Safety, early life pesticide exposure has been linked to long term health effects including cancer, decreased cognitive function, behavior problems, birth defects and other adverse birth outcomes, and asthma.
  • Heavy metals, including mercury, cadmium, and lead, can cause damage at the cellular level and contribute to the development of disease and health problems. Researchers now say there is no safe level of lead exposure, and children living in homes built before 1979 face increased risk of lead exposure.

What can you do? Along with trying to limit exposure to environmental toxic substances and heavy metals, get informed. Here are some helpful resources:

Tips to help cope with VOG

Vog, or volcanic smog, is a form or air pollution created when volcanic gases react with sunlight and moisture. Vog season comes and goes and depends on eruptions and winds. It is especially troublesome to children and adults who have seasonal allergies or respiratory illnesses like asthma, COPD and bronchitis. (Vog also adversely affects plants and animals.)

Vog may also cause itchiness, short tempers, depression, headaches, general malaise and low energy.

Here are some helpful tips to help cope with vog:

  • Reduce exposure to other toxins like cleaning supplies, paint fumes and smoke.
  • Stay indoors. Try to stay in a room with an air purifier or air conditioner.
  • Drink lots of pure water and keep hydrated.
  • Spray mist your environment.
  • See a health professional right away if respiratory illnesses, like asthma, flare up.



 


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