The Newsletter of the Children's Environmental Health Center April 2011
Our Mission: Protecting Children Against Environmental Threats to Health
Dr. Philip J. Landrigan
Happy Earth Day from the Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center!
Today, less than 45 years ago, our country celebrated the first Earth Day. What began as the product of local grassroots action - aimed to increase environmental activism - has now grown into a national tradition. More importantly, the first Earth Day helped focus the nation's political agenda on environmental issues. Less than a year later, Congress created a new federal agency, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
When I think about how far we've come since this day, I think about the importance of public action. The EPA was created in response to a growing public demand for cleaner air and cleaner water. We recognized that pollution needed to be controlled - or else the health of our country and the environment that we live in would deteriorate. We asked our government to do something about it. And soon enough, they did.
Throughout the 1970s, 16 major pieces of legislation were passed to address issues like air and water pollution, drinking-water contamination, pesticides, toxic substances, and radiation - all of which posed major threats to public health and the environment.
Without scientific knowledge, we cannot understand the impact of the environment on our health. For example, reductions in air pollution that followed passage of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 have led to substantial reductions in infant mortality and in respiratory and cardiovascular disease in American children and adults. This has saved our country trillion of dollars (US EPA. Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020, 2011).
However, without individual action, we cannot make the changes that protect our health, the health of our children, and the health of our future generations.
This is why I ask you - not just on Earth Day, but everyday - to remember the important work of Children's Environmental Health Center. Write a letter to your senator to support the Safe Chemicals Act, or share our newsletter with your friends. Support our research at our annual benefit luncheon, Greening Our Children, or post our press articles to your Facebook and Twitter pages. Without you, we cannot sustain our mission to protect children against environmental threats to health.
Wishing you and your family a happy spring!
Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc
Director, Children's Environmental Health Center
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
|New Studies Link Prenatal Pesticide Exposure to Lower IQ in School-Aged Children
Environmental Health Perspectives publishes three independent studies, all with similar results.
Yesterday, on April 21, three independent studies - including one published by researchers at the Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center (CEHC) - revealed links between prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides and diminished IQ in children. All three studies were published online in the peer-reviewed Environmental Health Perspectives, where they are available to the public.
Each study employed similar research methods, separately recruiting pregnant women, mostly from low-income groups, and testing their urine or umbilical blood for traces of these pesticides. All three studies found a link between prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides and neurodevelopment, including lower IQs and evidence of cognitive problems.
Stephanie Engel, PhD, MPH - working with a team of researchers, including Mount Sinai's Mary Wolff, PhD and Jia Chen, ScD - concluded that prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides has a negative impact on the cognitive development of school-aged children, particularly their perceptual reasoning skills.
While others have linked these exposures to neurodevelopmental outcomes in newborns, Dr. Engel's findings are among the first to suggest that these effects extend throughout early childhood
. Dr. Engel found that neurodevelopmental impact began at the age of 12 months and continued throughout early childhood.
Dr. Engel also found that mothers carrying a gene variant that made them vulnerable to organophosphates were more likely to have children with lower perceptual reasoning skills. Roughly one-third of all Americans exhibit this gene variant.
With researchers at Columbia and UC Berkeley using similar research methods and reaching similar conclusions, it is clear that the relationship between organophosphate pesticide exposure and neurodevelopment warrants serious consideration.
How to Avoid Pesticide Exposure in the Home
With three new studies on the impact of prenatal pesticide exposure on children's neurodevelopmental health, CEHC provides a guide to help reduce exposure in the home.
What are organophosphate pesticides?
The EPA defines organophosphate (OP) pesticides as a class of closely related pesticides that are used in both agricultural and non-agricultural sites. Organophosphates are extremely toxic, and they affect the functioning of the nervous system.
How does exposure to organophosphate pesticides occur?
As we know, pesticides are chemical substances that are used to kill, repel, or control certain forms of plant or animal life considered "pests." Exposure can occur by breathing vapors of these chemicals, ingesting materials, or having direct contact with the skin. Short-term symptoms of exposure include blurred vision, abdominal pain, increased salvation, sweating, irritability, nausea, vomiting, muscle spasms, and mental confusion.
What are some easy ways to reduce pesticide exposure in the home?
The easiest way to reduce the presence of pesticide residue is to wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly. Washing won't remove all residue, but it will make a difference, says the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
Your food choices can also help reduce chance of exposure. EWG recommends to eat fruits and vegetables that are in season, as these products are more likely to be grown domestically, where there are tighter restrictions on the use of organophosphate pesticides. It is also prudent to eat organic produce.
To learn more about how to prevent organophosphate pesticide exposure in the home, watch Chief Medical Corespondent Dr. Richard Besser on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, which aired yesterday evening.
Which fruits and vegetables have the highest level of pesticides?
EWG compiles a helpful list that ranks fruits and vegetables according to levels of pesticide residue, as determined by the USDA. When pregnant, it is especially important to choose fruits and vegetables with the lowest levels of pesticide residue or eat organic produce, if possible.
The following fruits and vegetables have the highest levels of pesticides.
The following fruits and vegetables have the lowest levels of pesticides.
US EPA. Types of Pesticides, 2011.
Environmental Working Group. Prenatal Pesticide Exposure Linked to Diminished IQ, 2011.
Landrigan, PJ, et. al. Raising Health Children in a Toxic World. Rodale Organic Living, 2001.
You're invited to Greening Our Children.
Each year, parents, community members, and all who care for children come together to support the research of the Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center.
Monday, May 9, 2011
Greenwich Hyatt Regency - Greenwich, CT
Click here to view our invitation.
Click here to support the Children's Environmental Health Center by purchasing tickets or tables.
Support our Center by making a contribution to research on children's health and the environment.
The New Safe Chemicals Act of 2011
On April 15, Senator Frank Lautenberg introduced the new Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 by releasing a video that outlines the the importance of legislation that requires manufacturers to reveal the safety of all chemicals used in everyday household products (see above). This video features interviews with prominent health experts and public officials, including Dr. Landrigan.
"The average American has more than 200 industrial chemicals in their body," said Senator Lautenberg. "The shocking truth is that the current law does not require tests to ensure chemicals used in everyday household products are safe."
Currently, the EPA does not have the tools to address the safety of these chemicals, as they can only request a safety test after a chemical is demonstrated to be dangerous. As a result, only 200 of the 80,00 chemicals currently registered in US have been tested for safety, and only five dangerous chemicals have been banned.
After introducing similar legislation last year, Senator Lautenberg hosted a series of hearings to gather feedback from chemical industry leaders, public officials, scientists, and non-profit organizations to strengthen the Safe Chemicals Act.
The New Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 will:
- Provide the EPA with sufficient information to judge a chemical's safety.
- Prioritize chemicals based on risk and focus on evaluating those chemicals that are most likely to cause harm.
- Require the EPA to take fast action to address highest risk chemicals.
- Put the burden on chemical manufacturers to prove the safety of their chemicals.
- Create open access to reliable chemical information by establishing a public database.
- Promote green chemistry by establishing grant programs and research centers to develop safe chemical alternatives.
To learn more, visit Senator Lautenberg's website.
This Month at CEHC
Check out other CEHC doctors in the news:
- Shanna Swan, PhD - the newest addition to the CEHC team - was featured in a USA Today article on the impact of environmental exposures on the development of young boys. Click here to read the article "Chemicals may be bad for boys' development."
- CEHC Director Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc was among 13 prominent scientists featured in "The New Toxic Threats to Women's Health," published in the May issue of Glamour magazine. Click here to read the feature, written by Melissa Wenner, frequent contributor to Scientific American.
- Joel Forman, MD spoke on an expert panel at Toxic Chemicals: The Safety of Synthetic Fields and How Environmental Laws are Failing Our Children in Chicago, Illinois. Click here to watch the full broadcast of the panel.
- Maida Galvez, MD, MPH delivered the presentation "Simple Steps to a Healthier Environment for Your Babies, Toddlers and Teens" in Larchmont, New York, which was broadcast on LMC-TV.
- Andy Tody, PhD spoke at the spring 2011 conference of the Greater New York Chapter of the Health Physics Society on the effects of long-term lead exposure at extremely low doses.
For up to the minute announcements from CEHC,
follow MountSinaiCEHC on twitter.
ABOUT THE CHILDREN'S ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH CENTER (CEHC)
Formally established in 2007, the Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center builds on Dr. Philip J. Landrigan's three decades of work in children's environmental health and fifteen years of research in environmental pediatrics at Mount Sinai. CEHC has established itself as a leading source of scientifically credible information on issues related to children's health and the environment.
Our mission is to protect children against environmental threats to health. We do this by guiding, supporting, and building the programs of the Department Preventive Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Current projects include:
The Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU), our clinical arm which cares for children with toxic environmental exposures.
Pilot Project Research Grants Program, CEHC's signature program, providing seed grants for Mount Sinai-wide initiatives into the environmental causes of learning disabilities (including autism), asthma, obesity/diabetes, and childhood cancer.
The Endocrine Disruptors Project, studying the effects of endocrine disruptors on neurodevelopmental disorders, obesity, early puberty, and other alterations in the proper functioning of the endocrine system.
The Autism and Learning Disabilities Discovery and Prevention Project, a multi-disciplinary, inter-departmental study recently launched to explore the link between neurodevelopmental disorders and environmental exposures.
Growing Up Healthy in East Harlem, tracing the effects of pollutant exposures on children's health in the inner city.
To make a donation supporting CEHC's work, please send a check payable to:
The Mount Sinai School of Medicine
ATTN: Children's Environmental Health Center
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Mount Sinai Development, Box 1049
One Gustave L. Levy Place
New York, NY 10029
Click here to donate online.
Please designate: CEHC (Children's Environmental Health Center) Fund
Mail: One Gustave L. Levy Place, Box 1057, New York, NY 10029