Children’s Environmental Health Center Strives for Home Sweet (and Safe) Homes for Kids

From left, Carrin Schottler-Thal, MD, medical director of the Lead Poisoning Resource Center for the Northeast New York region; Stephen De Waal Malefyt, MD, program director, Capital Region Children’s Environmental Health Center; and Kelly Webb, Kelly Webb, RN, BSN, Asthma Nurse Coordinator, Albany Med Pediatrics

National Children’s Environmental Health Day is Thursday, Oct. 14

Paying close attention to the food local children eat, the air they breathe and even the water they drink is the role of the pediatric watchdogs at the Capital Region Children’s Environmental Health Center, run in conjunction with Albany Med.

“We’re learning that there is so much in our environment that can cause a negative impact on human health, whether it’s pesticide exposure in your food, chemicals in your home, chemicals in baby products or children’s toys and pollution,” said Stephen Karel De Waal Malefyt, MD, program director, who recently testified on the adverse impact of pesticides on children at a New York State Assembly Legislative Hearing.

As part of a statewide network, the center’s strength is in promoting a healthy home and school environment for children that focuses on improving respiratory health, controlling pediatric asthma and eliminating lead exposure. Among its accomplishments, the center has collaborated with school nurses to eliminate barriers so children with asthma can more readily access their inhalers. It has also formed a coalition with local, regional and national pharmacies to ensure better labeling of children’s inhalers. Not only do Albany Med pediatricians regularly screen children for tobacco smoke exposure, but they assist and refer many parents to smoking cessation programs.

As medical director of the Lead Poisoning Resource Center for the Northeast New York region, Carrin Schottler-Thal, MD, makes it her priority to “be ahead of lead.” She urges parents and pediatricians to be vigilant to the hidden dangers of lead paint lurking in older urban dwellings and rural farmhouses. “There is really no safe lead level in the body,” cautioned Dr. Schottler-Thal. “What’s really scary about lead is once you have developmental effects, it’s irreversible.”

She advises parents to share any concerns about their home environment with their pediatricians. Families living in older houses planning home improvement projects should also verify that construction companies are lead-certified.

Learn more about our Children's Environmental Health Center.