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.