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Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units

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Children playing in dir outdoors

How do you bridge the gap between the growing concern over environmentally related pediatric health problems and the fact that many physicians feel inadequately educated to address such concerns? Between what parents would like to know about environmental effects on their children’s health and the need for a trusted source of objective, science-based information?

With a pediatric environmental health specialty unit (PEHSU).

At locations across the country, Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSUs) draw upon and bring together the combined expertise of pediatric, occupational and environmental medicine in order to improve environmental health for children. A PEHSU is a unique collaboration of specialists that work together at many of the nation’s leading academic medical centers to improve the environmental health of children.

How PEHSUs Work

PEHSUs provide services to families, act as consultants to clinicians and public agencies, develop educational materials, and respond to natural disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires. PEHSUs also educate health professionals and others about issues related to children’s health and the environment, particularly the effect of chronic, low-level exposures to air and water pollution, lead, mercury, mold, and pesticides. In addition, PEHSUs provide direct consultations to health care providers, parents, and others about known or suspected exposures and possible ways to prevent, lessen, or medically manage exposure illnesses.

For more information, visit the PEHSU website. To contact the national program, call 623-533-6340. To find PEHSU experts near you, go to http://www.pehsu.net/findhelp.html.

PEHSU staff members include a variety of environmental medicine and health experts, including pediatricians, occupational environmental physicians, medical toxicologists, pediatric pulmonologists, pediatric allergists/immunologists, nurses, and industrial hygienists. Eight PEHSUs share facilities or staff with a regional poison control center. Having all of these experts within one network allows PEHSUs to provide the unique services required for the many environmental health threats children face.

Anyone—physician, nurse, parent, public health official, school official, or media representative—may access the expertise of a PEHSU. All US PEHSUs have toll-free telephone numbers, and most are accessible by email. Upon receiving a query, the coordinator contacts the appropriate PEHSU staff member, who then answers the questions, provides management guidance, or recommends clinical evaluation.

Of course, parents hope that their children will never be exposed to toxic substances. However, if they are, it’s good to know that knowledgeable experts are ready to help.

For more information and a PEHSU success story see the CDC feature: A Perfect Partnership: Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units.

 

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