Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Link Between Environmental Exposures and Disease

I attended a lecture yesterday sponsored by the Children’s Environmental Health Center, a part of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan.

Specifically, the talk dealt with breast cancer, endocrine disruptors and early puberty, and how environmental influences are making all three increasingly widespread.

Generally—through both research and anecdotal evidence—doctors are becoming convinced that the effects of pesticides, plastics and other environmental exposures are an increasingly important factor in the rising rates of chronic disease among adults and children.

Children are highly susceptible to these toxins, and, according to Dr. Philip Landrigan, the Chairman of Mount Sinai’s Department of Community and Preventive Medicine, there is a “relationship between pediatric exposures and disease in adult life.”

The dots are there, and the medical community is beginning to connect them. Increased toxins in our food, water, air and everyday products have been linked to the skyrocketing increases in birth defects, leukemia, cancers, and developmental disabilities (autism, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, mental retardation, etc.).

The talk was sobering (to say the least) but there are simple ways to decrease our families' toxin intake.

Eating only organic food isn’t financially feasible for most of us, but everyone should be able to buy fragrance-free products (soap bars, dishwasher and laundry detergent, etc.) at no extra cost. In addition, replacing plastic food containers with glass and stainless steel is an easy way to eliminate Bisphenol-A and phthalates, two major endocrine-disrupting toxins.

I’ll discuss endocrine disruptors and other aspects of the lecture tomorrow.

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