Reproductive Health Professionals around the World Take a Stand on Toxic Chemicals

Reproductive Health Professionals around the World Take a Stand on Toxic Chemicals

To commemorate World Environmental Health Day this year and its focus on children’s environment and health, CHE is publishing a series of short essays from partners who are leaders in children’s environmental health.

written by David Tuller, DrPH, and Tracey J. Woodruff, PhD, MPH

In recent years, a growing body of research has documented that the in utero environment has a critical impact on future health and development. A strong body of evidence shows that prenatal exposure to toxic chemicals can usher in a host of adverse effects in childhood and across the lifespan, as well as in subsequent generations.

Now the world’s leading organization of reproductive health specialists, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), is urging medical professionals to demand stronger government regulation of toxic environmental chemicals.[1] FIGO’s call to action resonates with the theme of this year’s World Environmental Health Day—Children’s Health and Safety and the Protection of Their Environment.

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One Voice: Prioritize the Health of Our Children

One Voice: Prioritize the Health of Our Children

To commemorate World Environmental Health Day this year and its focus on children’s environment and health, CHE is publishing a series of short essays from partners who are leaders in children’s environmental health.

MaidaGalvezwritten by Maida Galvez, MD, MPH
CHE Partner

As an environmental pediatrician and mom, I worry about the thousands of chemicals that get put in our environment. I worry that many of these chemicals are universally detectable in the US population, that higher levels can often be found in children and racial/ethnic minorities, and that the majority have not been tested for basic safety for health effects, especially in vulnerable populations like pregnant women, infants and children. I worry that products are put into the marketplace and decades later we find that they may impact children’s health, their intelligence, their behavior and their risk for chronic conditions like asthma, ADHD, autism and obesity. I hear this worry directly when families, health care providers, communities and schools call our Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) and ask, “Did exposure to this chemical harm my child?”

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Brains Needed for the Future

Brains Needed for the Future

To commemorate World Environmental Health Day this year and its focus on children’s environment and health, CHE is publishing a series of short essays from partners who are leaders in children’s environmental health.

PhilippeGrandjeanwritten by Philippe Grandjean, MD, PhD
CHE Partner

Climate change and chemical pollution are serious challenges that require tough decisions, and the solutions will depend on human ingenuity. In other words, we need smart people to help clean up the problems that present and previous generations have created.

GrandjeanWEHDay2015But counter to this notion, we are promoting toxic chemicals that can damage human brain development. So we are essentially generating a vicious circle: industrial chemicals damage the development of the brains of the future that should have helped us design safer uses of chemicals that would not endanger the nervous system of the next generation.

We already know that more than 200 industrial chemicals can detrimentally affect brain functioning in adults. Although we have so far gathered enough evidence only on a dozen or so substances that can damage a child’s developing brain, we know that such toxicity occurs at much lower doses than those that affect the adult brain. Still, only a few of these chemicals have so far been regulated in order to protect the brains of the next generation.

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On World Environmental Health Day: The Call to Protect Children’s Environment and Health

On World Environmental Health Day: The Call to Protect Children’s Environment and Health

To commemorate World Environmental Health Day this year and its focus on children’s environment and health, CHE is publishing a series of short essays from partners who are leaders in children’s environmental health.

A very young Frederica Perera

Dr. Perera’s son

written by Frederica Perera, DrPH
CHE Partner

The protection of children, and especially poor children, from air pollution and climate change resulting from the massive burning of fossil fuel is an urgent moral imperative. The large and mounting health and economic costs of pollution and climate change necessitate bold policy change.

The entire global population is affected; however, the first thousand days of life represent the greatest window of susceptibility both to toxic exposures and stressors from climate change. The developing fetus and young child undergo very rapid development during which time they lack the innate defense mechanisms operating in older children and adults. Thus, they tend to be the most affected both by toxic air pollutants and climate change. The impacts of exposure to air pollution include adverse birth outcomes, cognitive and behavioral disorders, asthma and other respiratory problems in children, while climate change increases the likelihood of heat waves, floods, drought, malnutrition, infectious disease, and social and political instability. These early impacts can translate to lifelong consequences for the young.

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We Need a Rational Policy on Chemical Safety

We Need a Rational Policy on Chemical Safety

To commemorate World Environmental Health Day this year and its focus on children’s environment and health, CHE is publishing a series of short essays from partners who are leaders in children’s environmental health.

written by Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc, FAAP
CHE Partner and Chair of CHE’s Science Advisory Committee

Children’s health and the environment is a most fitting topic for World Environmental Health Day 2015. Children are the most vulnerable among us to degradation of the environment. Any actions that we take to protect infants and children against health threats in the environment will protect not only children, but will also safeguard all of us and preserve the health and well-being of future generations.

Toxic chemicals are a particularly serious threat to children’s health. More than 80,000 new synthetic chemicals have been invented in the past 50 years. These chemicals are found in thousands of products that we use every day. They have become widespread in the earth’s environment. They are routinely detected in the bodies of all Americans in annual surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And time and time again synthetic chemicals that we carelessly incorporated into consumer products with no premarket safety testing have been found to cause disease in children—cancer, birth defects, learning disabilities, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and impairment of the reproductive organs.

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