As flood waters recede in Houston and other communities impacted by Hurricane Harvey, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers guidance on ensuring children remain safe during efforts to clear flood-impacted areas.
Children are especially vulnerable to environmental hazards. Despite being smaller than adults, their metabolic rates are higher relative to their size. They breathe and consume more per pound of body weight than adults.
"Children are more susceptible to toxic exposures that can impact their development, both before birth and during early childhood," said pediatrician Jennifer Lowry, chair of the AAP Council on Environmental Health. "Children are naturally curious, so they often come into direct contact with materials that adults would avoid. Before children return to any area impacted by flooding, it's important that the area be cleaned. Children and teens should be the last group to return."
The Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units, with support of the AAP, have developed specific recommendations on making neighborhoods safe for children.
Key issues for the restoration of neighborhoods impacted by the flooding include the restoration of drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities, return of safe road conditions, removal of solid waste and debris, and replacement or remediation of flood damaged homes. In Houston, the toxic releases from chemical plants and other industrial buildings also pose unique risks to children.
Before children return, schools and outdoor play areas should be cleaned and ready for use. Children and, whenever possible, teens should not be involved in cleanup efforts but should return after the area is cleaned up. These recommendations also apply to pregnant women.
"The devastation of the hurricane and flooding to Houston has been overwhelming and heartbreaking," said Fernando Stein, MD, FAAP, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "It will take many months for my hometown to recover. I know the medical community – many of whom have also been displaced from their homes – will do everything possible to support each other and protect children and families during the long recovery period."
Additional resources from AAP:
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 66,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds