By Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff
Is there a link between the environment and illnesses such as pediatric cancer, asthma, allergies and behavioral problems? According to the scientists and doctors who advise Healthy Child Healthy World, the answer is yes.
For example, we believe it makes sense to reduce children’s exposure to chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA), which last month the U.S. Institute of Medicine (IOM) acknowledged has a “biological plausibility” for causing breast cancer.
When encouraging parents to avoid cans lined with BPA, among other things, we’re motivated by the Precautionary Principle, established in 1998, which states:
“When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.”
But many say that the links between the environment and our health are negligible, at best. For example IOM did not acknowledge a causal relationship between BPA and cancer, because most of the research has been done on animals—not humans.
Rather than following the Precautionary Principle, organizations like these prefer instead to wait for hard science to establish the link between environment and health. And when it comes to children, hard science has been a hard thing to find—until now.
The National Children’s Study, led in part by our Honorary Board member Dr. Phil Landrigan, who helms the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mt. Sinai Hospital, examines the effects of the environment—including air, water, diet, and more—on the health of 100,000 American children, following them from before birth until age 21. Established in 2000, it’s the largest long-term study of children’s health and development ever conducted in the United States.
Pilot testing of pregnant women began in 2007 in 30 sites, including Pennsylvania and Washington. The main study begins this year, with the next meeting set for later this month.
Keep an eye on The National Children’s Study. At Healthy Child, we believe the data that begins to emerge this year will be groundbreaking in terms of the way we look at the environmental impacts on health, giving us the hard science we need to change minds and create a healthier future for our kids.