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Sick Child

Healthy Child Healthy World recently interviewed Upstream Contributor, Dr. Leo Trasande, about environmental health.  Here are some of the questions and answers.

So what is environmental health?

Defining our field is often the major challenge of our field! It can be all encompassing—not only exposures to synthetic chemicals, it can go as broadly as impacts of climate change to the physical environment that influences children’s physical activity, diet, and ultimately obesity as well as other health outcomes.

Are people starting to pay more attention to the link between the environment and human health?

Yes. There are multiple drivers. There has been progress in improving medical curricula and research. Second, parents are presenting these concerns to their pediatricians and asking for answers with greater frequency and consistency. The third is the power of the purse. People are acting with their wallets and buying products that don’t have environmental contaminants and reducing their exposure. This creates a significant market force.

Where should parents wanting to raise healthy kids begin?

Start with some of the Healthy Child Easy Steps. Focus on the leading environmental issues we understand he most about. Lead is terribly important. And you can reduce your intake of fish contaminated with methylmercury while still eating the good omega-3s so critical for brain development.

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Does caring about environmental health mean you have to be a rich or a scientist? Or both?

You don’t need a PhD in chemistry or a millionaire’s salary to identify and protect your children from environmental hazards. There are safe and simple steps we can take, like avoiding lead and mercury exposure. You don’t have to spray pesticides in your house. You can open your windows every few days to get rid of organic chemicals and dust and mold.

Read all of the questions and responses here.

Visit Dr. Leo Trasande’s main Upstream page.

From NPR.org (an article about, and interview of, among others, Upstream Experts Leo Trasande and Frederica Perera):

BPA could be making kids fat. Or not.

That’s the unsatisfying takeaway from the latest study on bisphenol A — the plastic additive that environmental groups have blamed for everything from ADHD to prostate disease.

Unfortunately, the science behind those allegations isn’t so clear. And the new study on obesity in children and teens is no exception.

Researchers from New York University looked at BPA levels in the urine of more than 2,800 people aged 6 through 19. The team wanted to know whether those with relatively high levels of BPA were more likely to be obese.

But the results, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, didn’t offer a simple answer to that question.

Among white kids and teens, higher BPA levels were associated with more than twice the risk of obesity. With black and Hispanic youth, though, BPA levels didn’t make a difference.

“When we find an association like this, it can often raise more questions than it answers,” says the study’s lead author, Leonardo Trasande, an associate professor of pediatrics at New York University. There’s no obvious reason why one group of kids would be affected by BPA while another group wouldn’t, he says.

Also, there’s no way in this study to know whether BPA is actually causing kids to put on weight, says Frederica Perera, who directs the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health. “Obese children may be simply eating and drinking foods that have higher BPA levels,” she says.

And even if BPA is playing a role in weight gain, it may be just one of many chemicals involved, Perera says.

“Our center has recently published a study showing that exposure to another group of endocrine disruptors, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAH, was associated with obesity in the children,” Perera says. Those hydrocarbons are typically a part of air pollution in cities.

Some of the uncertainty about BPA may come because the researchers had no way of knowing how much exposure kids in the study may have had in the womb — the time many scientists believe chemical exposure is most likely to have a lifelong effect.

“Clearly we need a longer term study that examines exposure in the earliest parts of life,” Trasande says. Even so, he says, it may be time to rethink childhood obesity.

“Diet and physical activity are still the leading factors driving the obesity epidemic in the United States,” Trasande says. “Yet this study suggests that we need to also consider a third key component to the epidemic: environmental factors that may also contribute.”

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Read entire story and transcript of NPR interview here.

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