Low income families have higher risk of chemical exposure

Leonardo Trasande, MD, explains the factors that often lead low-income family to have a higher risk of chemical exposure
Why Low Income Families Have Higher Risk of Chemical Exposure
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Low income families have higher risk of chemical exposure

Unfortunately, we know that children from lower socio-economic statuses have higher exposures to environmental chemicals for a number of reasons. One might be that their housing is in a location that is less preferable because it's near a freeway. Another might be because their dietary exposures are different such that they have higher exposure to processed foods or chemicals that are incorporated into those foods. Because we know that these chemicals contribute to disease and disability in children, when you have higher exposure in those populations, you have a higher frequency of the condition that occurs. While we've given a lot of attention to access to health insurance and a variety of other socio-demographic factors, as they contribute to disparities in health among low socio-economic status populations, we need to give much more attention to the role of environmental chemicals as contributors to health disparities in children.

Leonardo Trasande, MD, explains the factors that often lead low-income family to have a higher risk of chemical exposure


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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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