Common environmental toxins affecting children's health

Leonardo Trasande, MD, shares advice for parents on the most common environmental factors and chemicals that can negatively affect your children's health
Common Environmental Factors That Affect Children's Health
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Common environmental toxins affecting children's health

Children are exposed to between 80,000-140,000 chemicals that are widely dispersed and in widespread use in the United States today. Unfortunately, the regulatory structure in the United States takes an "innocent until proven guilty" approach insofar as chemicals that are newly introduced into the market have no requirements for safety or toxicity testing before they are incorporated into consumer products, foods, and a variety of other things that we're exposed to in our daily lives. What little we know suggests that environmental chemicals such as lead, pesticides, and methylmercury, affect the developing brain and can have significant lifelong consequences for brain development. We know that certain chemicals in the air we breathe can irritate the lungs, potentially worsening asthma if children have asthma already, and in some cases, they may contribute to the development of asthma. We also know that a very small number of chemicals are associated with the development of certain types of childhood cancers. What little we know suggests cause for concern that environmental chemicals contribute significantly to childhood morbidity in the United States.

Leonardo Trasande, MD, shares advice for parents on the most common environmental factors and chemicals that can negatively affect your children's health


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Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP

Associate Professor, NYU School of Medicine

Dr. Leo Trasande's research focuses on identifying the role of environmental exposures in childhood obesity and cardiovascular risks, and documenting the economic costs for policy makers of failing to prevent diseases of environmental origin in children proactively. Dr. Trasande is perhaps best known for a 2012 Journal of the American Medical Association study associating Bisphenol A exposure in children and adolescents with obesity, and a 2011 study in Health Affairs which found that children's exposures to chemicals in the environment cost $76.6 billion in 2008. His analysis of the economic costs of mercury pollution played a critical role in preventing the Clear Skies Act (which would have relaxed regulations on emissions from coal-fired power plants) from becoming law. He has also published a series of studies which document increases in hospitalizations associated with childhood obesity and increases in medical expenditures associated with being obese or overweight in childhood.

These studies have been cited in the Presidential Task Force Report in Childhood Obesity, and another landmark study identified that a $2 billion annual investment in prevention would be cost-effective even if it produced small reductions in the number of children who were obese and overweight. He serves on the Executive Committee of the Council for Environmental Health of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and on the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee for the World Trade Center Health Program. He recently served on a United Nations Environment Programme Steering Committee which published a Global Outlook on Chemicals in 2013, and on the Board of Scientific Counselors for the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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