Children's Exposure to Toxics: Costs and Solutions
On Healthy Schools Day in April 2011, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson put the weight of her agency behind improving indoor air quality in schools:
"Today is about making sure our kids are able to breathe clean air in the places they go to learn each day. Asthma and other respiratory illnesses threaten children's health and cause them to miss important school time. There are simple ways to ensure clean air in our classrooms, and National Healthy Schools Day is about bringing people together to make that happen."
Indoor air quality is only one of several toxic threats to kids at school. Exposure to toxic chemicals during childhood is linked to serious conditions like asthma, cancer, and ADHD, and children are more vulnerable to toxic exposures than adults. Headlines like these have caught our eye of late:
- "Reducing The Staggering Costs Of Environmental Disease In Children, Estimated At $76.6 Billion In 2008" (Leonardo Trasande and Yinghua Liu, Health Affairs, May 2011). A 2002 analysis documented $54.9 billion in annual costs of environmentally mediated diseases in US children. However, few important changes in federal policy have been implemented to prevent exposures to toxic chemicals. "We ... found that the costs of lead poisoning, prenatal methylmercury exposure, childhood cancer, asthma, intellectual disability, autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder were $76.6 billion in 2008."
- "Asthma Rate Rises Sharply in U.S., Government Says" (New York Times, 5/3/2011) . "Nearly one in 10 children and almost one in 12 Americans of all ages now has asthma, government researchers said. According to the report, from 2001 to 2009 the prevalence of asthma increased among all demographic groups studied, including men, women, whites, blacks and Hispanics. Black children are most acutely affected: the study found that 17 percent of black children — nearly one in five — had a diagnosis of asthma in 2009, up from 11.4 percent, or about one in nine, in 2001."
- "American Academy of Pediatrics Says U.S. Fails to Protect Children from Hazardous Chemicals" (Pediatrics, May 2011) "The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is calling for an overhaul of the nation's chemical management policy because the current system fails to protect children and pregnant women, who are most vulnerable to hazardous chemical exposures. Over the past few decades, tens of thousands of new chemicals have been introduced into the environment, often in extremely large quantities. But the primary federal law that governs chemical management in the U.S. - the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) - has not undergone any meaningful revision since it was first passed in 1976, and since then, the TSCA has been used to regulate only five chemicals or chemical classes."
- "Will Kids Get Lyme Disease If Schools Don't Spray?" (Mother Jones, May 2011) "Hip, hip, hooray! As of last week, student athletes in New York will no longer have to worry about getting a mouthful of toxic chemicals when they dive for the ball: The state became the second to ban pesticides on school playing fields and playgrounds, following Connecticut, which has had a similar law since 2007. A ban has also been proposed in New Jersey."
And since government regulation of toxic substances has been inadequate, this additional headline from Beyond Pesticides brings welcome news:
Whole Foods to Rate Household Cleaning Products, Requires Full Disclosure for Products Sold. (Beyond Pesticides, April 27, 2011) "Whole Foods Market has introduced its Eco-Scale™ Rating System – an industry-first set of tiered, green household cleaning standards – to help shoppers make smarter, greener choices. Product ingredients will be evaluated and those that do not meet the standards set, such as the antimicrobial triclosan, phosphates and phthalates, will not be sold at Whole Foods Market."
Want to have an impact?
- Use these tips to start reducing toxics at your child's school: Strive to Be Toxics Free
- Urge your child's school to switch to green cleaners: Use our Green Cleaning Toolkit to help your school switch to green cleaners.