children’s health

EPA Children's Health Month October 2011 logo

Pediatricians’ Perspective: Ensuring Clean Air, Protecting Children’s Health

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By Jerome Paulson, MD, FAAP, and Samantha Ahdoot, MD, FAAP

When we recognize October as Children’s Health Month, bringing awareness to children’s unique health needs, it can be easy to overlook one variable that impacts each one of us every day, especially the health of our children—changes in our environment.

The health effects of increasing pollution levels on child health may not be as easy to see as a sore throat or runny nose, but they can still cause damage, leading to adverse reactions like asthma and reduced lung function. As pediatricians whose number one job is to keep children healthy, we believe that our changing climate and its impact on children’s health warrants our full attention.

To help ring the alarm bell on this issue, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently hosted a Twitter chat with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, which reached more than 7 million people, emphasizing the need to keep our air clean for children.

Children are uniquely susceptible to changes in their environment. They breathe more air, eat more food and drink more water per unit of body weight, making them more vulnerable to pollutants. Children today are already experiencing climate associated health impacts, including worsening allergic and asthmatic disease, changes in patterns of climate-sensitive infectious diseases such as Lyme Disease and displacement from extreme events like Hurricane Katrina. In fact, more than 80% of the current health burden due to changing climate occurs in children younger than five years old.

Children also have a fundamental right to inherit a planet that is as safe, productive and beautiful as the one our generation has enjoyed. Given our knowledge of the grave and potentially irreversible impacts of rising greenhouse gas concentrations, to continue on our current emissions trajectory is an unprecedented injustice to future generations.

There is no one solution to this sweeping public health concern, but the EPA has taken a step in the right direction by proposing a rule that would help to limit carbon emissions. Pediatricians are committed to working with the agency to ensure the strongest possible standards are implemented to protect children’s health, and are calling on public health advocates across the country to join us. We have no time to waste– the health and security of our children depends on our success.

About the authors: Jerome Paulson, MD, FAAP, and Samantha Ahdoot, MD, FAAP, chair and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health, respectively, are pediatricians based in the Washington, DC metro area.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog. 

Please share this post. However, please don’t change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don’t attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Credit: Anthony Berenyi | Shutterstock

BPA Exposure During Pregnancy Linked to Lung Problems in Children

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A new study reports that children of women who are exposed to BPA during pregnancy may face an increased risk of lung problems. Read more from Agata Blaszczak-Boxe at LiveScience.com

Credit: Anthony Berenyi | Shutterstock


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Petition: Tell Bill Gates to Protect St. Louis Families from Pollution

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Center for Health, Environment & Justice has been working with the group Just Mom’s STL and needs your help to get Bill Gates to take action. In fact, Lois Gibbs was in St. Louis just a few weeks ago to work with the grassroots group. Please sign the petition and join us in increasing the public pressure on Bill Gates. Thank you!


To: Bill & Melinda Gates, majority shareholders of Republic Services

Bill Gates is the dominant shareholder of Republic Services. He has the power of the vote and financial holdings to convince Republic Services to evacuate families living next to a burning landfill.

Families in this community cannot open their windows – not Gates’ software program – but their actual windows because of the odors and toxic air pollution.

Why is this important?

Why are we asking for Bill and Melinda Gates to act?

Because they have the power to make Republic take action and protect the children. No other child should be made sick and die.

A fire is moving toward from one Republic Services dumpsite to an adjacent dumpsite which contains radioactive wastes. No one knows what will happen when the fire reaches the radioactive wastes and no one knows how to put the fire out.

12 years old child died of brain cancer and now her sisters are sick. Republic Services earned $8.4 billion in revenues and $589 million in profits and is the second largest trash collection and disposal company in North America.  They can afford to move families and fully clean up the burning, polluting dumpsites. But they refuse.

Bill and Melinda Gates can use their influence to protect the children who live in surrounding communities, like Spanish Village which is closest to the burning dump. Gates’ owns 27% of the company’s share through his investment company, Cascade Investment (worth about $3.7 billion). Additionally, Michael Larson, chief investment officer at Cascade Investment, sits on Republic Services Board of Directors since 2009.

Bill and Melinda have the power, we are asking them to use it. Yes, the stock value may temporarily go down but Gates’ doesn’t live from pay check to pay check, his net worth is about $72 billion, he can take the loss.

Not far from the burning dumpsite and radioactive wastes is a family with four little girls. The youngest is in first grade today and the oldest is no longer with us. She was her mama’s little angel, her first born child and they so many dreams about her future, dancing at  her wedding holding their first grandchild someday.  But that was not meant to be. She was not feeling well and behaving strangely. Her mother took her to the doctors to see what was wrong. She was eight years old and cute as a button. After a series of test her parents were told that their little girl had a rare type of brain cancer—a tumor. Horrified that they were likely to lose their daughter, they search for answers. Why our baby? It’s not fair . . .  we did everything right.  What could possibly have cause this tumor to grow?  Angel’s parents did everything medically possible to save their child but in the end, four years after she was diagnosed, she died.

Her parents never stopped looking for the cause of the cancer and realized one day when mom opened the window to let in the fresh air that the air reeked with odors so offensive that she immediately slammed the window closed. It was Republic Services’ burning dumpsite that cause the nasty smelling air. As she investigated what was in the air, she believed she found reason for her daughter’s cancer and death. Not only was the air smelly but it contain cancer causing chemicals like benzene and likely radioactive dust.

Today, she’s very frightened for the health of her other three girls. Not only from living in the area but the grade school the girls attend is even closer to the burning landfill than their home.  How can she protect her other children?   Her three girls frequently suffer unexplained nose bleeds, sore throats, nausea, and other symptoms.  She’s trapped in the home she can’t sell and the girls trapped in a school that is likely not safe.

Bill and Melinda can help protect this family and others living in the community by getting Republic to evacuate the families that need to move and clean up the dumpsites. The death of a little girl should not have been for nothing – she was the canary in the mine—she made the ultimate sacrifice, sounded the warning to move the other neighborhood children. The hope is that Bill and Melinda Gates, parents themselves, can hear the warning from one brave little girl and help move Republic Services to move families and fully clean up the dumps. The Gates’ Foundation website says:

To turn caring into action, we need to see a problem, find a solution and deliver impact.

The problem is clear, the solution simply move the families and clean up the dumps, so families are asking the Gates’ family to deliver – impact Republic Services to act today. Protect the children.

Donna Young, a midwife, became worried about air pollution from the oil and gas industry causing child deaths after attending a memorial at a Vernal cemetery and seeing a row of graves for babies. (RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post)

Dead babies near oil drilling sites raise questions for researchers

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Donna Young, a midwife, became worried about air pollution from the oil and gas industry causing child deaths after attending a memorial at a Vernal cemetery and seeing a row of graves for babies. (RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post)

“VERNAL, Utah — The smartphone-sized grave marker is nearly hidden in the grass at Rock Point Cemetery. The name printed on plastic-coated paper — Beau Murphy — has been worn away. Only the span of his life remains.

“June 18, 2013 – June 18, 2013″

For some reason, one that is not known and may never be, Beau and a dozen other infants died in this oil-booming basin last year. Was this spike a fluke? Bad luck? Or were these babies victims of air pollution fed by the nearly 12,000 oil and gas wells in one of the most energy-rich areas in the country?

Some scientists whose research focuses on the effect of certain drilling-related chemicals on fetal development believe there could be a link.”

Read more from Nancy Lofholm at The Denver Post

Kidshalloween

This isn’t a trick: Toxic chemicals in Halloween costumes

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Parents across the country are stocking up on this year’s hottest costumes for their little ghouls, goblins, and princesses, but some costumes may contain hidden toxic chemicals harmful to our children’s health. I wish I were tricking you.

A new study released today by HealthyStuff.org found elevated levels of toxic chemicals in popular Halloween costumes, accessories and even “trick or treat” bags.  Dangerous chemicals like phthalates, flame retardants, vinyl (PVC) plastic, organotins, and even lead.  

TAKE ACTION: Tell big retailers – our children deserve a safe toxic-free Halloween.

They tested 105 types of Halloween gear for chemicals linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity and cancer.  The products were purchased from top national retailers including CVS, Kroger, Party City, Target, Walmart, and Walgreens.

These chemicals have no place in products for our little ones.  For instance they found high levels of flame retardants in “trick or treat” bags, and a toddler Batman costume that contained very high levels of phthalates, and even lead in the lining of the mask. 

We know that big retailers can do better.  In fact the new testing also shows that many Halloween products do not contain dangerous substances, proving that safer products can be made.  

Join us and send a message to retailers today. It’s time they “Mind the Store” and get these toxic chemicals out of products once and for all.

Image © AFP/Getty Images. Obtained from The Daily Mail

Is pollution to blame for autism? Researchers say breathing toxic air in the first two years of life linked to disorder

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Image © AFP/Getty Images. Obtained from The Daily Mail


New research has found links between chromium and styrene pollution and autism spectrum disorder in childhood. Scientists found that children who were exposed to higher levels of polluted air during their mothers’ pregnancies and before age two. Read more at The Daily Mail.

halloween

Tips for a Toxic-Free Halloween

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Wanna hear something spooky? With one of CHEJ’s favorite holidays, Halloween, right around the corner, we wanted to let you in on the chemical industry’s dirty little tricks.

PVC, one of the most toxic plastic for children’s health and the environment, has scared its way into some of our beloved children’s costumes.  Even scarier is that many vinyl products are laden with harmful phthalates,  endocrine disrupting chemicals banned in toys but widespread in many other vinyl products children come in contact with.  Vinyl products also often release a witches’ brew of toxic chemicals into the air. That’s that new plastic vinyl smell so many of us grew up with.  Who knew it was so scary!

With that in mind, here are some tips for a safer Halloween for your family and friends:

  • Avoid PVC: Shop for PVC-free costumes and masks.  If you’re not sure what the costume is made out of, ask the store or manufacturer whether or not it contains PVC and phthalates.
  • Make your own costume out of safer PVC-free materials!  We bet you can come up with something fun and creative by just diving into your closet.
  • Trade safe costumes with your friends. No need to buy more stuff.
  • Use safer face-paints.


Happy Halloween – and don’t get spooked by the chemical industry this Halloween season!

Photo by Hannah Rappleye, NBC News

How Safe Is the Artificial Turf Your Child Plays On?

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Coaches, athletes and families across the U.S. have started to draw surprising connections between the “grass” on athletic fields and instances of childhood cancer.

Photo by Hannah Rappleye, NBC News

A rash of leukemia and lymphoma diagnoses among soccer goalies has sparked concern about “crumb rubber” turf commonly used on athletic fields. Recent studies of crumb rubber, commonly made from used tires, have shown that the material contains hazardous chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Could your child be at risk?

Read the full story by Hannah Rappleye at  NBC News.

lovecanal

Support “The Canal” Documentary about the Love Canal Disaster

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A team of documentary filmmakers have worked for three years to complete a project on Love Canal, telling the story of the disaster and documenting the testimonies of those still affected by toxic chemicals in the Love Canal area. They are now raising the money they need to finish editing the film and get it out to the world.

According to the filmmakers, the documentary has two goals:

“The first is to save the families living in Love Canal today. And save is not too big a word: the rates of leukemia, miscarriages, and heart conditions are through the roof. Babies conceived in the area are at a hugely elevated risk of having birth defects…

The second goal is what effects us all. There are practically no safeguards between you and toxic chemicals either in the products you use or in the waste streams where they are deposited. The current laws do not require a company to prove that a chemical is safe before it is used. We must amend this law so that we can live without this unnecessary risk. We believe there is a way for companies to make money while behaving responsibly. This film introduces people to this debate through one of the most infamous chemical disasters. It tells a specific human story that affects us all and hopefully will inspire us to demand change.”

To follow updates about the film, visit their Facebook Page.

To contribute to the film, visit their Fundraising Page.

Not So Simple Science

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It’s common to think that in science and technical information lies the answer to the many questions that people have about their problems and how to solve them. At CHEJ, we have not foundthis to be the case. We have learned many lessons about science and how it is used. Science and technical information is important and has a role in helping to achieve your community goals. Identifying this role and learning how to use scientific and technical information is critical to the success of your group.

The most important lesson is that science and technical information alone will not solve problems. It’s common to think that if you hire the best scientists and engineers and make solid technical arguments, the government will do the right thing. Those of you who have been there know it doesn’t work that way.

When the government discovers a problem, it’s reluctant to determine the full extent of the problem. This is because if the government documents contamination that threatens people’s health, it then has to do something about it—like evacuate people and cleanup the contamination. This costs money that government doesn’t have or want to spend. Such action might also set a precedent by establishing cleanup standards or unsafe exposures levels that would mean spending more money at other sites.

Deciding what action to take is complicated by the fact that there are few answers to the many scientific questions raised by exposures to toxic chemicals. Scientists actually know little about the health effects of exposure to combinations of chemicals at low levels. As a result, when politicians and bureaucrats look for answers, the scientists don’t have them.

Most scientists however, are reluctant to admit they don’t know the answer to a question. Instead they introduce the concept of “risk” and begin a debate over what’s “acceptable.” This process hides the fact that scientists don’t know what happens to people who are exposed to low level mixtures of toxic chemicals. This uncertainty gets lost in the search for what’s “acceptable.”

Because of the lack of scientific clarity, bureaucrats and politicians use “science” cloaked in uncertainty, not facts, to justify their decisions which in truth are based on the political and economic pressures they face. Whether this is right or not is not a scientific question but an ethical and moral question. It is foolish to think that in this setting, science can be anything but a tool used by politicians and corporations to get what they want.

While science and scientific information have failed to provide clear answers and solutions to the hard questions about the health and environmental impact of the chemicals we use, we cannot abandon science. Science and scientific information can be a powerful tool for community groups, but only if you recognize what it can tell you and what it can’t, and only if you learn how to use the information and not just collect it. The right information used in the right way at the right time can be very powerful. Learning how to use scientific and technical information strategically is an organizing skill that will help you win your local fight.