Green Your Life interior
imus_nursingfac3Deirdre Imus was enthusiastically re- ceived at Mercer County Community College when she presented a “Greening the Cleaning” lecture before a packed house of nursing students, and others from the campus and community. Ms. Imus (second from left) is pictured with, from left, nursing student Rachael Zeichner of Ewing, MCCC Nursing program coordinator Linda Martin, and faculty members Donna Penn and Judy Reid.
 
 
 
 

Hackensack, NJ, October 17, 2006 – Children’s health advocate Deirdre Imus pointed to current statistics on children’s health – from asthma to diabetes – and said not enough people are asking why. She addressed about 350 nursing students and faculty at Mercer County Community College in West Windsor, September 28.
 
Ms. Imus is President and founder of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology® at Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC), a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation in Hackensack, N.J. The Environmental Center represents one of the first hospital-based programs whose specific mission is to identify, control and ultimately prevent exposures to environmental factors that may cause adult, and especially pediatric cancer, as well as other health problems with our children.
 
Among the statistics:
 
    Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children.
    (Source: American Cancer Society)
 
    One in every 166 children in this country is diagnosed with autism.
    (Source: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, CDC)
 
    One of every six kids will be diagnosed with a learning disability. (Source: American Council on Science and Health)
 
    An appalling diet has contributed to an epidemic in childhood obesity, impacting about one in seven children over the age of six. (Sources: National Institutes of Health, Institute of Medicine)
 
    About one in 400 to 500 children in the U.S. have type 1 diabetes. And type II diabetes, once associated only with adults, is now on the rise among children. (CDC)
 
    Respiratory problems such as asthma are the leading cause of absenteeism in schools. (Source: American College of Emergency Physicians).
 
    The rate of premature births increased 21 percent between 1981 and 2001. (March of Dimes)
 
    The third most common chronic disease in childhood is rheumatoid arthritis. (Source: Dr. Yukiko Kimura, Hackensack University Medical Center)
 
At least part of the answer for the trends, Ms. Imus believes, is the environment. The World Health Organization reports that many cancers can be prevented. “That means there are environmental factors that we can do something about,” she said.
 
On the topic of indoor air quality, Ms. Imus pointed out that schools are four times more crowded than office buildings, and indoor air quality is often five times worse than outdoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
 
Looking around the theater, Ms. Imus highlighted invisible hazards that can exist in any building environment -- PVC-based materials in carpet backing, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emissions from paints and varnishes, formaldehyde from processed wood, pesticides in ant traps, and toxic cleaning agents. “Because of the persistence of these compounds in the environment, we get this ‘cocktail’ that we all breathe in everyday.”
 
“And many pollutants stay in our bodies,” she added. Ms. Imus cited the “Body Burden” studies conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) that found 455 chemicals in the blood, urine and breast milk of test subjects.(1) Another EWG study suggests that mixtures of compounds found in furniture, cosmetics, fabrics, and other consumer goods, pass through the blood and may be inherited from mother to daughter.(2)
 
Green Power
 
On a personal level, Ms. Imus said people often hear about all the environmental hazards in their homes, schools and family diet, and then don’t know where to begin to make a change. “I say, start with just one thing. If your child likes apples, replace that with one that is organically grown. Apples are the most heavily sprayed fruit, so if you make that one change, you can make a big difference. You prevent pesticides from going into the soil, and from running off into our waterways,” she said.
 
“There is a lot we can change just by being consumers. If you start buying green and organic products, and tell other people, you begin to build better markets for these things and prices will come down even further,” she said.
 
During the presentation, Ms. Imus recounted some of the ways that she is helping to change things, including recent “green building” efforts at Hackensack University Medical Center, the Environmental Center’s award-winning Greening the Cleaning® program, and through organic practices at The Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer.
 
Ms. Imus is co-founder and co-director with husband, Don Imus, of The Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer, an authentic 4,000 acre working cattle ranch in northern New Mexico, which provides the experience of the American cowboy to children suffering from cancer and various blood diseases, as well as to children who have lost a brother or sister to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
 
Deirdre Imus and her husband work with children at the ranch all summer, “treating sick kids just like any normal kid – because they are, but they need to be treated that way, too,” she said. Children feed the animals before breakfast, learn to ride a horse and herd cattle. They not only gain a renewed sense of self-esteem, but a fresh approach to food, she said. The ranch is completely vegetarian and totally organic.
 
Green Hospital
 
On the topic of “green building,” the Environmental Center advised Hackensack University Medical Center on sustainable building products and processes for the new Sarkis & Siran Gabrellian Women’s and Children’s Center which opened in December 2005. The facility was named a “Top 10 Green Hospital” by the Green Guide Institute, and the Environmental Protection Agency recognized the effort with a Region 2 Quality Award.
 
About 15 percent of construction costs were for environmentally preferred choices. Among the pavilion’s many environmental features, pre-consumer recycled blue jeans – equivalent to an estimated 117,000 pairs – insulates the 300,000 sq. ft. facility. It also reduces the irritation to skin, air, throat and lungs associated with traditional fiberglass insulation.
 
In 2001, The Environmental Center instituted a hospital-wide Greening the Cleaning® initiative at HUMC. Greening the Cleaning® means eliminating to the greatest extent possible, all cleaning agents containing hazardous ingredients and replacing them with naturally-derived ingredients with the least level of toxicity.
 
As a result of the program, HUMC created an indoor environment believed safer for patients, staff and visitors. It eliminated and reduced burns and respiratory problems associated with cleaning chemicals, and yielded a 15 percent savings for the hospital.
 
For their efforts, the Environmental Center and HUMC were awarded The Phillip M. Scanlan Environmental Award from Quality New Jersey (QNJ), and recognized in 2001 by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) with the Environmental Award for Excellence.
 
Based on the success of the institutional program, a household line of Greening the Cleaning® products was launched this year, with products comparable in cost and efficacy to national brands, Ms. Imus said. “The difference is that when you buy our products, it goes to a good cause.”
 
For the institutional line of Greening the Cleaning® products, 100% of all profits from sales go to education and research to identify, control and ultimately prevent exposures to environmental factors that may cause adult, and especially pediatric cancer, as well as other health problems with our children. For the retail line, 100% of all after tax profits from sales go to The Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer.
 
 
References
 
[1] Environmental Working Group, “Body Burden: The Pollution in People” (Summary page of six studies conducted since 2000).
http://www.ewg.org/reports/bodyburden
 
[2] Sharp, Renee and Sean Gray, Jane Houlihan, “Across Generations: Mothers and Daughters, the industrial chemical pollution mothers and daughters share and inherit,” The Environmental Working Group, (May 2006).
http://www.ewg.org/reports_content/generations/pdf/bb-generations.pdf 
 
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