Giving Compass' Take:

• The Center for High Impact Philanthropy explains the issues associated with environmental health and how funders can make an impact to improve the lives of children in the U.S.

• Does this work align with your philanthropic mission and values? How can philanthropists work together to increase their impact on children's health? 

• Learn about using evidence to prioritize and address environmental risks.

Chemicals are in the air we breathe, the products we use, and the food and beverages we consume. Many are instrumental in improving the quality of our lives. However, of the 80,000 chemicals registered for use in the U.S., only an estimated 200 have been tested for human health impacts. Moreover, there is a small, but powerful subset of those chemicals that have been identified as toxic to the human nervous system.

A study in the U.S. found three pervasive chemicals—lead, methylmercury, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)—in 96%, 89%, and 100% of children, respectively, and in more than 80% of pregnant women. These chemicals present a significant risk for children and pregnant moms. While there are many factors that contribute to a safe and healthy start for children, here we list three ways donors can help build critical mass in the evolving field of environmental health in early childhood.

The most acute stages of human neurological development begin in the womb and continue through age two, a period increasingly referred to as “the first 1,000 days.” While children’s brains continue to develop into adulthood, influences on this earliest period of brain development, including maternal health during pregnancy, can have particularly profound and lifelong effects. Without a safe and healthy start children can miss critical opportunities to thrive and become productive members of our communities.

This is a promising and evolving opportunity for philanthropy. Among the ways funders can help prevent and reduce childhood exposure to harmful chemicals include:

  • Advocating for improved policies and regulations.
  • Supporting research and innovation to further assess chemicals whose effects have not yet been fully tested.
  • Eliminating these exposures in built, consumer, and natural environments.

Read the full article about children's environmental health at The Center for High Impact Philanthropy.