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Read the Label, Mabel

Easy Steps to Better Health!

picture of Mabel

We can do a lot about our "world"
that will improve our health and fitness.

These tips are also available in folder form for distribution within your school or group from the NIEHS Office of Communications (email at Adults and older children may also want to visit: It's Your Scene, Teen—21 Easy Steps...

Read the label, Mabel
Read the label, Mabel:
Before you point that spray can, read the label for directions and warnings. If a label says, "Wear rubber gloves" or "Open windows and ventilate," there's a reason, and you should do what it says. Also read drug labels for warnings.

Food labels tell about fats and calories. Spot the Block helps kids learn how to use the Nutrition Facts Label on food packages.. Visit the Food and Drug Administration for more information.

Put drugs up high, Di:

Even vitamins and drugs like aspirin can kill small kids who think they're candy. Put them out of reach.

Look in your phone book for your local Poison Control Center and ask for "Mr. Yuk" telephone number stickers for use in a poisoning. Or you can get the location of your nearest center at Find Your Poison Center.

Your cold might be your cat, Matt
Your 'cold' might be your cat, Matt:

You could be allergic to dust mites (tiny bug-like creatures that live in dust and eat the scales of skin that you have shed), trees or cockroach parts. Some people also react to mold, chemical products and pets. Asthma is often set off by such substances. You may find it hard to breathe. You may wheeze. NIEHS has a fact sheet called Asthma & Its Environmental Triggers. Or the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has a booklet, Airborne Allergens: Something in the Air.

Know the dangers of your job, Rob
Know the dangers of your job, Rob:

Whatever you do, there are risks. You may need to climb a ladder or lift heavy packages. You may work with gas and oil or other chemicals. Use a computer? Bad posture or repeating the same motion over and over can hurt. Learn to take needed precautions.

Don't drink from the lake, Blake
Don't drink from that lake, Blake:

A clear lake or stream may be a nice place to wade or swim. But it may have germs that can turn your stomach inside out, so don't drink the water. When walking in the wild, take along your own drinking water.

Get rid of lead, Ted:

Lead is a poison. It can slow mental and physical growth. So it is good that lead-added paints and gasolines are no longer sold. But some pre-1950 buildings with flaking lead paint are still around. The lead ends up on babies' hands and toys as dust. And you know where babies put their hands and their toys. So cleaning up and dusting up are important. And small kids living in old houses should be tested for lead in their blood.

what about radon?
Hey Ron, what about radon?

You can't smell radon gas in your home, but you can test for it. It is way behind smoking as a cause of lung cancer, but may hurt people, especially if they smoke. (Learn about the dangers of smoking from Mama Didn't Know.) Testing doesn't cost much. And often, simple "ventilation" (like opening a window) can turn high radon levels into low ones. For more info call 1-800-SOS-RADON.

Leo, check for CO:

CO, or carbon monoxide, from space heaters and other home heating sources can kill. Smoke alarms don't alert you to CO, so your family needs a carbon monoxide alarm too.

Turn it down then, Townsend
Turn it down then, Townsend:

Loud noises can give you "old ears." Loud motorcycles, firecrackers and gun fire, if close enough, can damage hearing, immediately or over time. Hearing may decline and/or there may be ringing, buzzing or roaring in the ears or head. If you can't remove the noise, wear protective gear or ear plugs. For more information, contact the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communicable Disorders Clearing House at 1-800-241-1044 or email

Beware the heat, Pete
Beware the heat, Pete:

Exercise keeps you fit, but in very hot weather, try to do it in the cooler hours. Keep water handy and drink plenty of it. Keep some available for Fido and the cats, too.

don't overfill, Bill
Mind the ozone, Tyrone

Ozone gas occurs when there are a lot of vehicle exhaust and factory emissions. It builds up when the air is stagnant. It can irritate and damage your lungs, nose and throat. It can make breathing harder, especially if you exercise outdoors during its peaks. You'll find air quality alerts in your newspaper, TV and radio weathercasts. When an alert is on, play in parks away from auto traffic, when possible. Limit the time you spend outdoors when ozone levels are high, especially if you have asthma, bronchitis or emphysema.

And since evaporating gasoline adds to the ozone problem, don't overfill, Bill, when you add gas to your car or mower!

Jean's clean hands
Wash hands clean, Jean:

Sneezing? Handling chicken or other raw poultry or meat? Have you been to the toilet or changed a diaper? Playing outside? If so, washing your hands (and the food-cutting board, etc.) is important to prevent the spread of germs and infection.

Careful of the pesticide drift, Cliff:

Watch the way the wind is blowing when you spray for bugs or weeds. You might accidentally get poison on yourself, or on the food growing in your garden.

Eat a good diet, Wyatt
Eat a good diet, Wyatt:

Not just an apple but five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day may help keep the doctor away. For a booklet on the value of "five a day" call 1-800-4-CANCER.

Take a vitamin pill, Jill
Take a vitamin pill, Jill:

The federal government recommends that girls of child-bearing age take folic acid, a B vitamin. It reduces the risk of having a child with a very bad defect in which his or her spine is open and unprotected, and easily damaged during birth. From the teens on, you need to take the vitamin daily, before as well as during pregnancy.

Put the belt on, Shelton
Put the belt on, Shelton:

Put the belt on, Shelton: Race drivers know that wearing seat and shoulder belts can cut their risks in two. Other injury-preventing habits: Wear bike helmets, athletic cups, and other protective athletic gear. Look for the fire exits in a theater or hotel. Check smoke alarms to make sure they beep. Don't play with hunting rifles and other firearms. Avoiding unlit areas at night. Don't talk or go with strangers. Carry a first aid or snake bite kit, when in the wild. Find a partner or two for climbing, swimming or other exploits—someone able to get you out of a tight spot or to go for help.

Don't puff or chew, Stu
Don't puff or chew, Stu:

With tobacco, people die young and often slowly. Smokers should also worry about the smell, about their teeth getting stained, and about getting wrinkles.

Smoking kills more people than car crashes, murders, suicides and fires combined. To find out more about why you shouldn't start smoking, call 1-800-4-CANCER, or the Office on Smoking and Health, 1-404-488-5705. (Also learn more about the dangers of smoking from Mama Didn't Know.)

Respect sex, Tex:

Teens and young adults need to know that 8 million Americans under age 25 have sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS. For some this will mean early death or cancer, or they will be unable to have children. As they approach their teens, kids should talk with their parents about sex. Additional information can be obtained at the National STD Hotline at 1-800-227-8922, or the National AIDS Hotline at 1-800-342-AIDS, or (in Spanish, -SIDA).

Watch that burn, Fern
And watch that burn, Fern:

A little fun in the sun? Sure, but the sun produces painful sunburn and skin cancer. It ages and wrinkles the skin. It also results in melanomas (malignant moles that sometimes spread and can kill) and cataracts that dim vision. Hats and other covers and ultraviolet-blocking sunglasses help. For more on what melanomas look like (so you can get them removed) call 1-800-4-CANCER.

For more information about sun safety, download the SunWise Activity Book, the Mission: SunWise story, and all the other SunWise publications created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to promote sun-safe behavior at any age.

These environmental actions—protecting yourself and your environment —are preventive measures......for your good health.

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For parents
People are exposed to many chemicals every day. They are found in the air, products, and in the food we eat. Many of these chemicals have unknown effects on the human body. It is important to study the effects of their chemicals. Learn more about the NIEHS-EPA Pilot Study of Exposure to Chemicals in Consumer Products.
For teachers
The President's Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children is the focal point for coordinating federal government efforts to explore, understand, and act together to improve children’s environmental health.
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