Green Your Life interior

Our Children Are All Polluted

children_and_pollutionRelatively short-term significant increases in incidence of hormonally-associated cancers (e.g., breast cancer, ovarian cancer, testicular cancer) and early onset of puberty have spurred researchers to carefully consider what role environmental factors play in triggering these conditions.  Known endocrine-disrupting chemicals like phthalates (including BPA and other bisphenols), parabens, 4-nonylphenol and triclosan are present in everyday items to which children are exposed, leading our research group at the Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center to investigate the presence and impact of these chemicals in prepubertal children.  Our recent publication in BMC Endocrine DisordersAssociation of environmental chemicals & estrogen metabolites in children, reveals an astonishing fact: 100% of children in our study had detectable levels of at least five chemicals in their urine.  

What is particularly concerning is that these study subjects are all young children – between the ages of 4 and 8 – and are patients at the Whole Child Center, my primary care practice in which families are especially mindful about limiting exposure to potential environmental toxins.  Even in these families theoretically armed with knowledge and vigilant about “green living” practices, children are loaded with known hormone disrupting chemicals.  To be clear, we found no correlations at this time between exposure to these chemicals and levels of various estrogen metabolites.  There is no way to know for sure the presence of these chemicals will ever have any impact on these children’s lives.  Still, it is quite troubling that we find any detectible amount of these toxins in our kids.  As we’ve seen with the sad ongoing lead legacy, once a chemical is introduced into the environment, even decades after it is removed from use, we still find it present in our children’s bodies.  Even small, persistent amounts, especially in combination with other chemicals, can cause life-long harm.  The time to act and prevent damage is before potentially harmful chemicals are released for everyday use.

What can be done?  We must adopt a two-fold response.  One, we must continue to advocate for effective legislation banning the use of potentially harmful chemicals in the manufacture of common products like baby bottles, water bottles, food containers, personal care products and cleaning supplies.  Two, (and this is likely the more effective strategy) we as consumers must act immediately to reduce our use of all products containing these chemicals to decrease demand and let manufacturers know we no longer will buy their products if they contain harmful chemicals.  Our children are depending on us to protect them.

 

dr_rosen_bio_pic_3-6-14Lawrence Rosen, MD is an integrative pediatrician and co-author of Treatment Alternatives for Children. He is the founder of the Whole Child Center, one of the country’s first green and integrative pediatric practices, and he serves as Medical Advisor to The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center®.  Dr. Rosen’s academic credentials include positions as past Chair of the AAP Section on Integrative Medicine, Clinical Assistant Professor in Pediatrics at UMDNJ, and author of numerous articles and book chapters on integrative pediatrics. He is also the pediatric columnist for Kiwi Magazine and blogs for the Huffington Post. 

 

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