Friday, October 29, 2010

Director of Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health Testifies at Toxic Chemicals Hearing

Last, but not least, of the witnesses in Tuesday's Senate subcommittee hearing on "Toxic Chemicals and Children's Environmental Health" in New Jersey, was Dr. Frederica Perera.  Dr. Perera is Director, Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH), Professor of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health Columbia University.  In her testimony, she focused on "endocrine disrupting chemicals and neurodevelopmental disorders, noting that an estimated 5-17% of United States children have been diagnosed with a learning or attention disorder."

She reported largely based on the work done at CCCEH, which since 1998 has "conducted international studies of cohorts of mothers and children followed from pregnancy."  Even back then, she noted, "we knew that there were ever-increasing human exposures to environmental toxicants and that rates of neurodevelopmental disorders and chronic illnesses such as childhood asthma and cancer were on the rise."  She made it clear "that these diseases had multiple causes, environmental exposures such as lead, mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls were known to contribute," but also said that it had "become evident over the previous decades that the placenta does not adequately protect the fetus from toxicants and that, due to their rapid development and immature defense systems, the developing fetus, infant and child are especially susceptible to environmental toxicants."

After sharing some of the Center's research in this area, she noted that the research demonstrates "the link between fetal and child exposures to phthalates, BPA, and PBDEs, and adverse developmental and neurodevelopment effects."  She suggested that "a preventive approach is clearly needed," and offered the example of the case of lead removal from gasoline as an illustration of the effectiveness of such an approach. She acknowledged that there were still many uncertainties in cause and effect, but suggested that:

"given the widespread exposure to chemicals such as those I have discussed, these uncertainties do not outweigh the need for a preventative approach to children’s health. The public health and economic benefits of prevention are clearly great. Our data and those of many others support a preventative chemical policy to protect our youngest and most susceptible population."

More on the hearing can be found on the subcommittee web site.

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