Wednesday, October 27, 2010

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta Testifies at "Toxic Chemicals and Children's Environmental Health" Hearing

Continuing with the news of the last two days, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the highly visible physician and medical correspondent for CNN testified at the Senate subcommittee hearing on "Toxic Chemicals and Children's Environmental Health" in New Jersey on Tuesday. 

Gupta had looked at the potential for reproductive and developmental effects related to chemical exposure in a CNN special program called "Toxic America" first aired several months ago.  In his testimony, Gupta noted that "children are especially vulnerable to toxic chemicals. Children are not simply small adults. For one thing, children have a faster metabolism. They take in – pound for pound --- more air, water and food than adults."  Further, "infants and toddlers also spend a lot of time close to the ground, where dust accumulates. And we know from research this dust can contain toxic chemicals like flame retardants, shed from our televisions and other appliances. Young children can breathe in this dust. As a father, I also know first-hand how little kids like to put their hands in their mouths. That’s another potential route of exposure."

While in the CNN article Gupta acknowledges that "there is no science that demonstrates a conclusive cause-and-effect relationship between chemicals children are born with and particular health problems," he argues that "studies are finding associations between elevated levels of chemicals in a baby's body and their development."  In his testimony he notes that "children are also more susceptible because their immune systems are still developing. Kids are simply not as good at getting rid of toxic chemicals. That means toxic chemicals stay in their bodies longer. Also, their growing bodies are not as good at repairing damage from exposures to toxic chemicals."

And that is the take home message on which Gupta ended his testimony:
Finally, we know our exposure to many chemicals accumulates over time – what’s known as body burden. So what children are exposed to now can build as they age, and their risks of harm from these chemicals could rise with their body burden. So we need to take into account the long-term risks of chemical. After all, children – and the rest of us – are still being exposed to PCBs, which the government calls “probable carcinogens,” and PCBs have been banned for more than 30 years.

More testimony and an archived web cast can be found on the subcommittee web page.

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