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.
The following is excerpted from a review by CHE Partner Leigh Attaway Wilcox of the 2010 Autism Society National Conference. It is reprinted with her permission. The full review is on the Dallas Moms blog.
On July 8, 2010, CHE’s Learning and Developmental Disability Initiative, with the support of the John Merck Fund, cosponsored the 2nd annual Science That Makes a Difference Annual Symposium at the Autism Society of America National Conference.
The “Science Symposium” was potentially the most powerful and meaningful part of the conference, in my opinion. Six very well-respected and knowledgeable experts shared their take on “Environmental Exposures and Child Development: The Latest on Environmental Health Sciences, Developmental Disabilities and Public Health Policy.” While waiting for the first session to begin, I was encouraged that Sharon Lewis and Lee Grossman were both in the audience. Sadly, they both left before the first speaker began. I had secretly hoped that in hearing the blatant scientific proof that our environment is greatly affecting our youngest, and most vulnerable generation, that Ms. Lewis would feel compelled to share concerns with President Obama…that I might even have the opportunity to dialog with her about the topic. However, since she was not there throughout the day, I don’t know if she has heard what these speakers had to say…or what many of the other speakers addressing the topic of our toxic environment have to say…I can only hope that she has heard and will continue to learn from these experts in the coming months.
My dream would be to have President Obama hear directly from these speakers! After hearing them, one cannot walk away without strong determination to take action and make necessary changes; that is what our country – our global society – truly needs.
To kick off the Science Symposium, Dr. Ted Schettler gave a general overview of our Environmental Health entitled “In Harm’s Way.” Dr. Schettler’s speech was not geared directly at ASD, but moreso at our general and overall health as a global community.