Children's Environmental Health
Initiatives at MDH
On this page:
Birth Defects Information System
Cancer Surveillance System
Fish Consumption Advice
Indoor Air - Schools
Other Children's Health Initiatives
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is implementing a state plan to reduce hospitalizations and emergency room visits resulting from asthma. The federally funded plan was developed by the MDH Asthma Advisory Work Group, which included physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and representatives from health plans, community-based organizations, schools and non-profit health associations. Activities to accomplish the plan include generating public awareness of asthma, providing education and training to those who care for individuals with asthma and their families, improving public policy and conducting ongoing asthma research.Resources and contacts:
The MDH is establishing a Minnesota Birth Defects Information System (BDIS). The goals of the BDIS are to: 1) implement a multi-source system to generate timely population-based data; 2) improve the access of children with birth defects to health services and early intervention programs; and 3) implement targeted birth defects prevention programs. These goals are addressed through a collaborative effort with many diverse partners. The overall project will require several years to fully implement.Resources and contacts:
- Birth Defects Information System
- Birth Defects Monitoring and Analysis Program
- Birth Defects Monitoring and Analysis Program Contacts
The MDH maintains a statewide cancer registry called the Minnesota Cancer Surveillance System to evaluate trends in child and adult cancer incidence and mortality, and to evaluate the effectiveness of cancer prevention and intervention programs. The data also enables the detection of public health problems, targeting goals for cancer control, and informing citizens and health care professionals about cancer risks, early detection, and treatment. For more information, see Childhood Cancer.Resources and contacts:
Health Risk Limits for Contaminants in Ground Water
In 2009 MDH made major revisions of rules for Health Risk Limits for contaminants in drinking water. Staff researched advances in the science of risk assessment and methods that are used to estimate children's exposures. The resulting findings were used to modify methods of developing risk-based guidance so that exposure and sensitivity concerns unique to early life stages of children are specifically considered in developing drinking water limits.
The MDH provides advice about the amount and species of fish that is safe to eat from Minnesota lakes and streams. Children and fetuses are more sensitive to the effects of contaminants in fish. The MDH establishes meal guidelines to help ensure that exposures to methylmercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are kept at safe levels.Resources and contacts:
"Safe or Sorry" Food Safety Training
Safe or Sorry (SOS) is a consumer food safety curriculum and tool kit created by the MDH in response to the increased incidence and concern regarding food safety and hygiene-related illnesses. SOS uses humorous skits and innovative props - from glowing "germs" to rubber chickens - to illustrate basic principles of food safety. Topics covered in the curriculum include hand washing, cross-contamination, food irradiation, foodborne illness, and time and temperature considerations. SOS has been successfully implemented in a number of Minnesota middle schools.
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The MDH Indoor Air Unit assists school officials with creating more comfortable and healthful learning environments. Over twenty on-site consultations have been completed in schools, and this work has reduced allergens, irritants, and other hazards. In addition, several presentations and trainings are conducted every year, to increase school officials' awareness of developing scientific issues, government guidance, and regulations. Finally, school officials across the state are surveyed yearly, to assess the progress regarding their indoor air quality management plans.Resources and contacts:
Lead in School Drinking Water
The MDH lead in school drinking water program provides guidance to school administrators on the sources and health effects of lead in drinking water. Information is provided on how to test for lead in the drinking water and how to reduce exposure. This program also encourages school administrators to distribute lead information to parents so that they can evaluate exposure to lead in their homes.
- Drinking Water in Schools
- Point of Use Water Treatment Units for Lead Reduction.
- Drinking Water Protection Contacts
Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention
The MDH conducts a statewide program to prevent childhood lead poisoning. This program collects data to target blood lead testing and education in areas of the state where children are at high risk for lead poisoning. The MDH also has developed Blood Lead Screening Guidelines for health care professionals to screen and identify children at risk.
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Clandestine drug labs and methamphetamine (meth) production is a growing concern in Minnesota. The chemicals used to make meth are very hazardous. Children are most vulnerable to the exposures associated with living in home where meth is produced. The MDH meth lab program works to prevent exposures, raise awareness, and provide information on clean up, health effects, environmental effects, local efforts, and more.Resources and contacts:
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Healthy School Environments
The school environment is of special importance to our children's health and development. The MDH is actively engaged in assisting schools with a variety of environmental health programs. These programs inform school officials and others about methods to manage and prevent hazards, relevant laws, and useful guidance documents.
Assessing Risks to Children from Sites with Hazardous Waste
The MDH Environmental Health Division evaluates public health risks at sites or facilities where chemicals have been released into the environment. These sites can include landfills, dumps, industrial and agricultural facilities, leaking underground storage tanks, hazardous waste sites, and other places with contaminant releases. Evaluation of these sites includes evaluating exposure, evaluating toxicity, characterizing health concerns and developing recommendations, and gathering input from interested parties.
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Tobacco Prevention and Control
Tobacco is a preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in Minnesota. The tobacco prevention and control program at MDH is effectively working to prevent youth and young adults from starting to use tobacco, and reducing use among those who have started.
For more information on children's health initiatives being undertaken by MDH, please see Life Stages and Populations: Children and Adolescents.
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