Child Health Day: Reducing Toxic Chemicals Still Not Named as a National Priority

written by Elise Miller, MEd

Last week I had the privilege of participating in the Children’s Environmental Health Summit, organized by the Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT). Not only were there presentations by some of the luminaries in environmental health research and long-dedicated health advocates from around the country, there were also powerful talks given by those from communities in Alaska that have been significantly impacted by exposures to toxic chemicals. You could have heard a pin drop when several women from different tribal groups – Savoonga, Inupiaq, Nay’dini’aa Na’ and others – described their experiences about the health impacts of toxic exposures they had witnessed in their villages.

A common theme emerged as these women spoke – namely, being told by decision-makers that there wasn’t a health problem, when they knew otherwise. The result was that more children and families have had their health undermined in ways that could have been prevented. Their stories of course sadly echoed the experiences of families in Flint, Michigan, and countless other communities, where those who are most knowledgeable about a situation have often been dismissed as being over-reactive or worse.

In this context, it was notable that President Obama’s Presidential Proclamation on Child Health Day 2016, issued on October 4th (the last day of the Summit), did not explicitly mention exposures to toxic chemicals as a threat to children’s health nor as a priority our nation needs to address.

The Proclamation does highlight some other key child health concerns, such as the need to increase exercise, improve food quality and reduce bullying. The Paris Climate Agreement is also mentioned as a signal of the United States’ commitment to “reduce the harmful effects that climate change can have on our children, including the potential for higher incidence of asthma attacks, and other health problems exacerbated by dirty air.” These are of course all laudable.
The Proclamation also suggests that clean air and clean water are important for children’s health. But what strikes me is that the language in the Proclamation skirts the need to address pollution and polluters as a priority on our national agenda to protect children’s health. What does that say to the communities in Alaska, the families of Flint, the neighborhoods of Anniston, Aabama, and all the many other places where toxic exposures have wreaked havoc on their health? When are their concerns going to be fully heard and responded to at the highest levels?
In this light, it seems even more important that a Children’s Environmental Health Day has finally been established during the US EPA’s Child Health Month, thanks to the Children’s Environmental Health Network. It will be inaugurated tomorrow, October 13th and held on the second Thursday of October from now on. My great hope is that establishing this day will bring far more focused attention to reducing toxic exposures and implementing prevention-oriented actions so that our most vulnerable populations can have the healthy future they deserve.

Commentary: 25 Years of Endocrine Disruptor Research – Great Strides, But Still a Long Way to Go

written by Laura N. Vandenberg, PhD
Assistant Professor and Graduate Program Director of Environmental Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences

Laura N. Vandenberg

Laura Vandenberg (Credit:

Reprinted with permission from Environmental Health News

Cancer. Diabetes. Autism. Infertility. ADHD. Asthma. As the rates of these diseases increase over time, the public and researchers alike have focused on the role the environment might play in their cause and progression. Scientists in the field of environmental health sciences are not satisfied just to know that the environment contributes to human disease – they want to know how.

This week [ScienceSeptember 18-20], researchers, public health advocates, government officials, and industry spokespersons will meet at National Institutes of Health (NIH) to celebrate 25 years of scientific research on one aspect of environmental health: endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). These are compounds that alter the way hormones act in the body, often by mimicking or blocking their actions. Just a few examples of widely used consumer products that contain EDCs are plastics, electronics, flooring, some personal care products, and furniture treated with some flame retardants.

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Kids Are Not Just Substituting E-Cigs for Cigs; E-Cigs Are Expanding the Tobacco Epidemic

September 26th is World Environmental Health Day. The theme this year is “Tobacco Control… a response to the global tobacco pandemic”, and so we offer this commentary, shared with the author’s permission. The original post is available on his blog.

stantonglantzwritten by Stanton Glantz, PhD
Professor of Medicine and Truth Initiative Distinguished Professor of Tobacco Control at the University of California, San Francisco

Jessica Barrington-Trimis and her colleagues have published two important papers in Pediatrics on the link between e-cigarette and cigarette use, both based on a large longitudinal sample of Southern California youth who have been followed for many years.

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Celebrating 25 Years of Endocrine Disruptors Research

written by Elise Miller, MEd
updated September 19, 2016

Twenty-five years ago “endocrine disrupting chemicals” was hardly a household term. Now at the grocery store or while traveling, I’ve been astonished to hear “endocrine disrupting chemicals” or “EDCs” roll off some people’s tongues as though they were toxicologists, rather than parents with little background in science simply voicing concerns about possible links between chemical exposures and their kids’ health. Even mainstream news outlets refer to EDCs with only the briefest of explanations these days.

How did this happen? I certainly don’t have the space here to detail this remarkable story, but some pioneering researchers in the 1990s were central to bringing these critical issues and a revolution in scientific thinking to national and international attention. Theo Colborn, Pete Myers, Niels Skakkebaek, John McLachlan and Lou Guillette – to name just a few – began publishing and speaking to other scientists, health professionals, health advocates, philanthropists and journalists about the significance of this research. In language accessible to lay audiences, they brought home the point that certain chemicals, pervasive in our environment, could disrupt healthy biological processes at minuscule doses during key windows of development. Most disturbingly, they described how these synthetic chemicals were present in the womb and could contribute to chronic diseases and disabilities across the lifespan.

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Violence: The Connection to Environmental Health and Justice

written by Elise Miller, MEd

Violent events rock families and communities in the U.S. daily. But last week was particularly wrenching as we learned first of two incidents of extrajudicial shootings of black men by police—one in Louisiana, the other in Minnesota—followed by the killing of five police officers by an individual sniper at an otherwise peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Texas. The complexities and causes of each case may be unique, but at the core is an abiding racism that continues to permeate our country.

Racism is perpetuated in multiple and insidious ways, such as the widening income gap, toxic stress, poor nutrition, lack of access to healthcare and to nature. Another factor intimately interconnected with these, but often overlooked, is exposure to pollutants and other toxic chemicals. We know that being exposed to heavy metals and neurotoxic chemicals can lead to cognitive deficits and developmental delays that in turn have been linked to juvenile delinquency and violent behavior. We know that many kids of color and low-income families are more likely to live in housing stock with lead paint and pipes and close to polluting industries. We know that during pregnancy poorer women are disproportionately exposed to harmful chemicals associated with learning and developmental disorders. We know that working-class parents often have to take the lowest-paying jobs, many of which require regular contact with contaminants linked to cognitive and behavioral problems. We know for most of these families the only food they can afford comes pre-packaged and contains toxic chemicals that can impact neurodevelopment.

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Unprecedented Alliance of Scientists, Health Professionals, & Advocates Agree Toxic Chemicals Are Hurting Brain Development

written by Ted Schettler, MD, MPH
Science Director

Ted SchettlerAn unprecedented alliance of leading scientists, health professionals, and children’s health advocates has come together to publish a consensus statement concluding that scientific evidence supports a causal link between exposures to toxic chemicals in food, air and everyday products and children’s risks for neurodevelopmental disorders. The alliance, known as Project TENDR, is calling for immediate action to significantly reduce exposures to toxic chemicals to protect brain development for today’s and tomorrow’s children.

Neurodevelopmental disorders include intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficits, hyperactivity, other maladaptive behaviors, and learning disabilities.  Project TENDR’s consensus statement is available on the Project TENDR website.

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Cell Phones, Cancer and Precaution

written by Elise Miller, MEd

The National Toxicology Program’s study on the potential health impacts of cell phone radiation published at the end of May has been called a potential “game-changer” by some leading researchers in the field. The preliminary findings of this study, the largest of its kind ever conducted, indicate that male rats exposed to radio-frequency (RF) radiation emitted from wireless devices have an increased risk of developing brain cancer (malignant glioma) and tumors on the heart (schwannomas). This affirms the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) decision in 2011 to classify RF radiation as “possibly carcinogenic” in humans. It also suggests that if IARC were to assess the emerging research from the last five years, it might have good reason to raise that classification to “probably carcinogenic.”
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