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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Chemicals in Everyday Products and Children’s Health: A Small Dose of the Facts

Our guest blogger is Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc, a pediatrician, epidemiologist, and internationally recognized leader in public health and preventive medicine. He is currently the Ethel H. Wise Professor of Pediatrics, Chair of Community and Preventative Medicine, and Director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Patterns of illness in American children have changed dramatically in this century. The ancient infectious diseases have largely been controlled. The major diseases confronting children now are chronic and disabling conditions:

  • Asthma incidence has more than doubled;
  • Leukemia and brain cancer have increased in incidence, brain cancer by nearly 40% over the past three decades;
  • Neurodevelopmental dysfunction is widespread;
  • Incidence of hypospadias, a birth defect of the reproductive organs in baby boys, has doubled.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Chemical toxicants are known and suspected to contribute to causation of these pediatric diseases. They deserve great attention because they are generally preventable sources of harm. Children are at risk of exposure to over 15,000 high-production-volume synthetic chemicals, nearly all of them developed in the past 50 years. These chemicals are used widely in consumer products and are dispersed in the environment. More than half are untested for toxicity.

Children are especially sensitive to environmental toxins.

  • Pound for pound of body weight, children have greater exposure to pesticides because they drink more water, eat more food and breathe more air than adults.
  • Their unique behaviors put them at higher risk. They live and play close to the floor; and they constantly put their fingers into their mouths.
  • Children’s metabolic pathways, especially in the first months after birth are immature. Generally they are less well able to metabolize, detoxify, and excrete toxicants than adults and thus are more vulnerable to them.
  • Children are undergoing rapid growth and development, and their developmental processes are easily disrupted. From conception and throughout fetal development, exquisitely small toxin exposures can cause permanent impacts.
  • Since children have more future years of life than most adults, they have more time to develop chronic diseases that may be triggered by early exposures.

Our children are our future. Our responsibility as the adults of our society is to care for our children, protect their health, and guide them to successful adulthood. One of the simplest steps parents can take is to create a healthy home. Get started today.

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Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 7:53 am

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