Mixed Messages on Pollution

Two recent conflicting reports highlight the difficulties in deciphering the degree of the environment’s impact on our health. Just how polluted are we?

From the Bergen Record (NJ), July 14:

Slew of Pollutants Found in Babies

Mothers pass on hundreds of chemicals – from pesticides to flame retardants – to their babies through their umbilical cords, according to a groundbreaking study. The study, to be released today, found 287 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood from 10 babies born in U.S. hospitals. The blood harbored pesticides, chemicals from non-stick cooking pans and plastic wrap, long-banned PCBs and wastes from burning coal, gasoline and garbage. On average, each baby had been exposed to 200 chemicals.

From the Associated Press, July 22:

U.S. Bodies Have Fewer Dangerous Chemicals

Americans have lower levels of lead, secondhand-smoke byproducts and other potentially dangerous substances in their bodies than they did a decade ago, according to perhaps the most extensive government study ever of exposure to environmental chemicals. “These data help relieve worry and concern,” Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday.

What are we to make of these studies and statements? My take is that the EPA has a long way to go, even if we have witnessed small successes in some areas, like lead containment. Arsenic in pressure-treated wood playground equipment, mercury in our fish – there is much work to be done. I, for one, am not fully relieved of worry and concern.

For more information on pediatric environmental issues:

Raising Healthy Children in a Toxic World (Landrigan)

Pediatric Environmental Health, 2nd Edition (AAP)

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