these cases result in severe systemic illness (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2002a).


Few studies have estimated children’s exposure to noise or the effect of noise on children’s health, but there is suggestive evidence of its effect. Children appear to be routinely exposed to more noise than the recommended upper limit proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1974 (De Joy, 1983; Roche et al., 1982). Noise-induced hearing loss in one or both ears among children ages 6 to 19 was found to be 12.5 percent (or 5.2 million children) (Niskar et al., 2001) and more frequent among high school students actively involved in farm work compared with peers not involved (Broste et al., 1989). In a sample of 1,218 children, 1 in 20 school-age children had minimal sensorineural hearing loss and 37 percent of the children with this hearing loss failed at least one grade (K–12) (Bess et al., 1998). Even mild hearing loss is associated with increased social and emotional dysfunction among school-age children.

Noise exposure in childhood is associated with a stress response (Tafalla and Evans, 1997—in male college students), headaches (Odegaard et al., 2003), sleep deprivation (Corser, 1996; Cureton-Lane and Fontaine, 1997), elevated blood pressure and heart rate (Matheson et al., 2003; Evans et al., 2001; Regecova and Kellerova, 1995), and poor performance including reading comprehension and long-term memory (Matheson et al., 2003; Stansfeld et al., 2000).


Exposure to ultraviolet B radiation from sunlight exposure and the use of tanning equipment during childhood can result in substantial morbidity and mortality later in life. Health risks from exposure vary with skin type and include sunburn, skin cancer (the most common malignant neoplasm in the U.S. adult population), phototoxicity and photoallergy, skin aging, and cataracts. Approximately 80 percent of lifetime sun exposure occurs before the age of 18. Episodic high exposures sufficient to cause sunburn, particularly during childhood and adolescence, increase the risk of melanoma (Saraiya et al., 2003).

Ionizing radiation comes from both natural and manmade sources. Natural sources include radon, cosmic radiation, and ingested radon and fallout. Manmade sources include medical X-rays and some consumer products. The consequences of exposure for children’s health include birth defects from prenatal exposures (microcephaly, mental retardation), neurological damage in younger children, and cancer (American Academy of Pediatrics, 1998).

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