More and more documented data has become available to substantiate our need to use the Precautionary Principle. I wish to thank and acknowledge the contributions made by:
APP Advocate Precautionary Principle, an approach characterized by minimizing or eliminating potential hazards at the onset of an activity rather than accepting a level of harm.
Environmental exposures play a key role in human growth and development. Toxic chemicals in products and in our homes, work places and communities can interfere with healthy brain development in the fetus, infants and children, potentially resulting in life-long problems with learning and behavior .
An estimated 12 million American children (nearly 17%) have one or more learning, developmental, or behavioral disability, (LDD) and these numbers appear to be increasing. LDD includes children and adults diagnosed with learning disabilities, intellectual and developmental disabilities, ADHD, autism, and other conditions involving brain development. Intellectual disability alone affects 1.4 million children, and one in 110 children is diagnosed with autism each year.
The connection between toxic environmental exposures and neurodevelopment is an emerging area of concern. Scientists have learned that the developing brain is much more susceptible to harm from toxic substances than the adult brain. For their size and weight, children consume more food, drink more fluids, and breathe more air than adults. Those with disabilities often spend more time on the floor and put more things in their mouths, exposing them to chemicals that accumulate in household dust or are in products.
Many aspects of learning and development are genetically influenced, but for the vast majority of LDDs there is no evidence that genetic factors are the predominant or only cause. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) estimates that 25% of developmental and neurological deficits in children are due to the interplay between chemicals and genetic factors, and that 3% are caused by exposure to chemicals alone. Exposures to environmental toxins such as lead, mercury, PCBs, toluene, and other solvents have all been proven to cause permanent developmental disabilities.
There is an urgent need to reform the way our country regulates chemicals. The vast majority of chemicals are used in products without being tested first for health impacts. Not only is it important to test and prevent exposures to neurotoxins, it is also critical to evaluate chemicals that interfere with the hormonal system.
Pediatric Precautionary Health
In a policy paper from the American Academy of Pediatrics it is explained that there are risks of different pesticides to children, and the AAP argues that the government should intervene to keep dangerous chemicals off the market. Writes Dr. Jerome Paulson, part of the AAP’s Council on Environmental Health.”Children are not little adults,” Paulson, of Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., told Reuters Health. “Their bodies are different and their behaviors are different. That means that their exposures to chemicals in the environment are different, and the way their bodies (break down) those chemicals are different.” Kids may be especially vulnerable to chemicals during important periods in development, when their brains and bodies are changing quickly,” Dr. Paulson added.
Last spring, the at the National Cancer Institute President’s Cancer Panel, a group of expert physicians, public health and policy experts, released a report entitled Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk which stridently warned that the scientific and regulatory communities in this country were underestimating the number of environmentally-induced cancers caused by industrial and commercial chemicals. Of the 80,000 chemicals now in industrial use in the US only about 200 have been studied for carcinogenicity. Few studies relate in any way to humans, and none to fetuses, infants, and children, the highest risk populations. Because few have been peer reviewed and many have been performed under conditions where potential conflicts of interest exist, there is much controversy over the accuracy and relevance of the data.
Studies have shown that all newborn infants’ cord bloods appear to contain measurable levels of many industrial chemicals previously taken in by their mothers. Some countries, and groups like the EU, have espoused the “precautionary principle,” requiring manufacturers and industries to show that new chemicals they want to use are generally harmless before they incorporate them into products or spill them out into the environment. But, just as it took the US 50-100 years to ban lead in house paint, it is taking many decades for our commerce-driven society to respond to warning signs that we might be poisoning ourselves in the relentless pursuit of profit.
We should be concerned that environmental toxins may be causing the increased incidence of asthma, autism, ADHD, and other developmental dysfunctions that seem to be rising more rapidly than can be explained on the basis of infectious diseases, behavioral changes, or parenting patterns. These chemicals enter our bodies through our skin, our lungs, and our gastrointestinal tract. We then pass them on to our children and they, too, build up levels because the chemicals cannot be metabolized or excreted.
Image Credit: www.wired.com/images_blogs/ wiredscience/2011/..