USEPA Region 9: Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSU) at University of California, Irvine and University of California, San Francisco
The Pediatric Environmental Specialty Units (PEHSU) at University of California, Irvine (UCI) and University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) are important members of a network of federally funded clinical and educational centers. They provide expert clinical and public health evaluations of children and communities with suspected environmental health problems serving a geographic area that encompasses Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, the Pacific Islands and Tribal Nations. In 2007 wildfires of unprecedented severity raged in Southern California. The PEHSUs at UCI and UCSF knew the environmental hazards associated with wildfires and the special concerns for children’s health under these conditions. They also recognized that there were few sources specific to wildfires to provide basic environmental health advice for pediatric health care providers and child oriented information for the community. Within a few weeks, the UCI and UCSF PEHSUs developed two Fact Sheets to fill this need for both the English and Spanish-speaking communities. “Health Risks of Wildfires for Children” and “Environmental Hazards for Children in the Aftermath” are Fact Sheets for the general public that are also useful to pediatricians, other clinicians, and community leaders in answering questions that parents might have. The PEHSUs utilized available authoritative materials from local, state, and federal government as well as academic sources to develop two handouts. One Fact Sheet addresses environmental hazards to children during the acute phase of wildfires and the second focuses on the environmental issues faced by children during the recovery phase. Materials were peer reviewed within the PEHSU network and the American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as by some authorities from government. The AAP has endorsed the two Fact Sheets written in English; the Spanish translations are awaiting their review. There was an immediate demand for the materials which rapidly were added to the websites of the PEHSUs, the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics, California State, US EPA and other federal agencies. 2008 has been an even more fire prone year with more than 1,800 wildfires engulfing much of the State of California, with other states affected to a lesser degree. The materials have been widely used by schools, public health officials, health care providers, and others.