Update from the 5th NW Environmental Health Conference, held on 3/15/2013 in Portland Oregon.
The keynote presentation by Tracey Woodruff , PhD MPH who is professor at UCSF, director of the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment and previous senior scientist and policy advisor at the US EPA highlighted several key points.
The statement made by Rachel Carson in her classic book “Silent Spring”, says, “what we have to face is not the occasional dose of poison but the persistent and continuous poisoning of the environment”, is more true today than it was 50 years ago when that book was written. The example of the virtual extinction of the bald eagle from the persistence of DDT, despite it’s being banned in the 1950’s, was given to illustrate both the persistence of many of these toxins in the environment, as well as the importance of better regulation which has now allowed a come-back for the bald eagle.
Dr Woodruff shared the unique vulnerability of the developing baby during the time in the womb, and how pregnant moms face toxins in the food and water, in the home, at work, and in personal care products.
Autism rates in the US are now climbing, reaching 6.4 to 11.4 cases per 1000 (2002–2008). Childhood cancer (1975–2007) is 129 to 167 per million and ADHD (1997–2008) affects 6–9% of the population (boys 10–12 %).
US chemical production from 1945 to 2007 has increased 20 fold. There are over 87,000 chemicals listed for use or imported. There are over 3000 manufactured or imported chemicals representing over 1 million pounds a year, and 700 new chemicals a year.
A study at UCSF, using data from the survey NHANES, found 43 chemicals in virtually every pregnant woman. Every pregnant woman was found to have banned, persistent bio-accumulative chemicals like DDT. 99% had pthalates (endocrine disruptors) and 98% had BPA. Perflorinated chemicals (Teflon, food packaging, stain resistance fabrics) were found in virtually every pregnant woman.
The rise in rates of neurological disability, despite the successes in, for example, getting lead out of automobile gasoline, may have a genetic predisposition as evidenced by the higher rates of autism and ADHD in boys compared with girls, but the environmental exposures are surely the key factor.
The President’s cancer panel of 2008-2009 (appointed by Bush) wrote “to a disturbing extend babies are born pre-polluted”. The report discusses how we have under-estimated the environmental risk contribution to human disease.