WE CAN change the state of our children's health by Deirdre Imus

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BY DEIRDRE IMUS Deirdre Imus is the founder and president of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology at Hackensack University Medical Center as well as the co-founder and co-director of Imus Ranch, a working cattle ranch for kids with cancer. Deirdre Imus’s latest book, The Essential Green You! How to Detoxify Your Diet, Your Body and Your Life, is the third volume in her New York Times best-selling Green This! series. Growing Up Green: Baby and Child Care, the second volume in the series, is an essential parent-friendly guide to raising a healthy child in our increasingly toxic environment. Onehundred percent of the author’s profits from her books benefit the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer.
s a student athlete at Villanova, I realized that if I wanted to maintain a competitive edge, I would need to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Eating organic whole foods, getting plenty of exercise, and reducing toxic exposures in my own surroundings were personal choices that I embraced. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle became even more important when I became pregnant with my son, Wyatt. Like all parents, I wanted my child to grow up happy, healthy, and strong. The job of raising – and protecting – our children has become increasingly complicated. Compared to our grandparents’ generation, our lifestyles have undergone radical changes and so has the environment we live in. During this time, chronic diseases and developmental and behavioral disorders in America’s children have reached epidemic proportions. Certain birth defects and cancers have also increased significantly. Some would suggest this is just a coincidence. Many experts, however, have stated that the deteriorating health and well-being of our children can be directly attributed to today’s toxic environment. The constant introduction of household products designed to make our lives easier – but which are made with untested toxic chemicals, the excessive use of pesticides on food and in our homes, air pollution
We CAN change the state of our children’s health A
from automobiles and coal-power plants, and the increasing number of vaccinations given during critical developmental windows, are a few examples of the changes that have occurred in the last half-century. If you follow the environmental health research, you begin to understand how all of these changes in lifestyle, diet, and the environment are taking a dramatic and tragic toll on our children’s well-being. There are a multitude of toxins found in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the clothes we wear, and even in the toys we buy for our children. These environmental toxins create a chemical cocktail that is often persistent and permeates every aspect of our lives. We know that, pound for pound, children breathe and eat more than adults. Children play closer to the ground and engage in more hand-to-mouth behavior, which means they can ingest the chemicals we use to clean our homes. They are also less able to detoxify harmful pollutants due to an immature organ system, which makes them more vulnerable to toxins. Researchers have linked environmental exposures to many of the chronic illnesses and developmental disorders that are increasing at an alarming rate. The statistics are sobering.
Many experts, however, have stated that the deteriorating health and well-being of our children can be directly attributed to today’s toxic environment.
Cancer is still the leading cause of death by disease in children. One in 300 boys and one in 333 girls will develop cancer before the age of 20. Leukemia and brain cancer in children (up 40%) and testicular cancer (up 55%) in adolescents have increased since the 1970s. Birth defects are the leading cause of infant death. One child in six who is between the ages of six and 19 is considered overweight. One in every 400 to 500 American children has diabetes. One in five children has asthma, which has doubled since 1980. Approximately 34% of American children under 18 suffer from allergies. Neurodevelopmental disorders – autism, dyslexia, mental retardation, and attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – affect 5-10% of the 4 million children in the United States. One in six children has a developmental and/or behavioral disorder (speech/language disorders, learning disabilities, or ADHD).
We also know that boys are four times more likely to have developmental disorders; this suggests that males are much more vulnerable to environmental exposures.
Many of these children have significant chemical sensitivities, which can exacerbate their illnesses, particularly those children suffering from asthma, allergies, and developmental disorders. Another very disturbing discovery does not involve an increase in childhood diseases but rather a decrease in the births of boys. In 2005, a small Canadian Indian reservation surrounded by industrial chemical plants reported the ratio of male to female births had fallen dramatically over the past 30 years, approaching 100 female births in comparison to 50 males. Researchers suspect hormone-disrupting pollutants, in addition to heavy metals, may be contributing to this alarming finding. We also know that boys are four times more likely to have developmental disorders; this suggests that males are much more vulnerable to environmental exposures. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the environment significantly affects more than 80% of major diseases. In 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a report that stated “avoidable environmental exposures” are responsible for as much as 24% of all global diseases and more than 33% of diseases in children under the age of five. This means that many childhood diseases and disorders can be prevented. Unfortunately, we, the government and parents alike, are not doing enough to prevent them. In addition, children’s chronic illnesses and developmental disorders are extremely costly. A Harvard study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2007) found that “…from 15 to 18 percent of children and adolescents have some sort of chronic health condition, nearly half of whom could be considered disabled.” The authors stated, “These new epidemics in chronic health conditions among children and youth will translate into major demands on public health and welfare in upcoming decades.” Protecting our children should be one of our nation’s highest priorities. Unfortunately, when it comes to shielding children from dangerous toxins, our country’s environmental policies have been woefully inadequate. As a result, millions of parents wake up each day facing the challenges of caring for a child with a chronic illness or developmental disorder…a sick child who often continues to live and learn in a toxic environment simply because many parents don’t realize the health effects caused by these exposures or how to reduce them. In order to reduce the bombardment of toxins our children are exposed to every day, parents must identify the environmental pollutants most harmful to children and do whatever they can to avoid these toxins. The most dangerous toxins include: Mercury – a known developmental neurotoxin found in some vaccines, fish, dental amalgams, coal-burning emissions, foods with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), pesticides, incinerators; can damage the brain, immune, and nervous systems and is linked to developmental disorders, including autism. Lead – a neurotoxin used in old paints and pipes, batteries, cosmetics, some toys, and sometimes found in drinking water; can cause brain damage, loss of IQ, infertility, memory loss, cardiovascular and kidney problems, and joint and muscle disorders. Cleaning products – contain chemicals found to be carcinogens, neurotoxins, mutagens, teratogens, and endocrine disruptors; when inhaled or absorbed through the skin, these chemicals are capable of damaging the liver, kidneys, nervous system, and a developing fetus. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PBAs) – a persistent organic cancer-causing pollutant, endocrine disruptor found in some fish, flame retardants, adhesives, floor finishes, and paint; linked to liver damage, cancer, diminished cognitive development, and altered estrogen levels
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3. 4.
5. 6. 7.
10. One child in 150 has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD); autism is four times more common in boys – 1 in 80 boys. 11. One baby out of every eight babies is born prematurely, which represents an increase of almost 31% between 1981 and 2003. 12. Rheumatoid arthritis is the third most common chronic disease in children. 13. Bipolar disorder has increased 40-fold since 1994, making bipolar disorder more common than clinical depression in children.
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resulting in reproduction problems. Pesticides – found in produce, insecticides, and head lice treatments; linked to developmental delays, behavior and learning disorders, hyperactivity, and motor dysfunction. Phthalates – chemical endocrine disrupter used in cosmetics, baby teethers, and children’s toys; linked to kidney and liver damage. Bisphenol-A (BPA) – an estrogenmimicking chemical found in metal food cans and plastics such as baby bottles and water bottles; linked to cancer, heart disease, obesity and, possibly, diabetes and brain functioning. Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) – a human carcinogen that can cause cancer, asthma, emphysema, pulmonary bronchitis, and middle ear infections. Other environmental pollutants can be found in drinking water contaminants (chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals), air pollution (dioxins, volatile organic compounds, asbestos), and industrial emissions (mercury, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides). Obviously, it is not possible to avoid all environmental toxins, but you can limit some exposures that threaten your child’s health. With a little due diligence, by eliminating or reducing those exposures you can control and making safer “green” choices whenever possible. While much of my work has been in the area of childhood cancer and sudden infant syndrome (SIDS), I became extremely concerned about the astounding rise in autism spectrum disorders several years ago. There is simply no way to overemphasize the magnitude of this devastating disorder or overstate the heartache it causes the families affected. Autism didn’t enter my life the way it does for most parents…in a physician’s office hearing what many would argue is the most heart-wrenching and lifealtering words a mother could hear: “your child has autism.” No, autism hasn’t touched my family, but it has touched my heart. While some experts argue the surge in autism is the result of better diagnosis, several studies have rejected this theory. Ask any seasoned elementary teacher, they
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As children received more and more mercury via vaccination, some children reached what many refer to as a “toxic tipping point,” and then regressed into a world of silence, isolation, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Many children have documented lab results showing excessively high mercury toxicity.
will tell you that the multitude of children with autism receiving special education today was not there 20 years ago. Few subjects spark a more immediate and passionate response as the debate over mercury-containing vaccines and autism. Many parents firmly believe their children developed normally and then lost skills as a result of the number of mercury-containing vaccines tripling during the 1990s. As children received more and more mercury via vaccination, some children reached what many refer to as a “toxic tipping point,” and then regressed into a world of silence, isolation, and obsessivecompulsive behaviors. Many children have documented lab results showing excessively high mercury toxicity. In spite of what is often reported, there is a substantial amount of scientific research and strong anecdotal evidence that supports an association. The more I investigated the role of environmental exposures in relationship to autism, the more troubled I became. Many in the mainstream medical community don’t want to talk about this subject. They fear that any question about vaccines will result in parents deciding not to vaccinate their children. But when it comes to protecting our children, I believe we cannot afford to casually dismiss this theory even if it is an uncomfortable one. There are no “sacred cows” as far as I am concerned. When I began writing my second book, Growing Up Green, I wanted to share what I have learned about how environmental toxins were contributing to the deteriorating health and wellbeing of America’s children and causing everything from asthma to cancer. I also wanted to give parents some simple, practical advice on how to protect their children by reducing environmental exposures and living a healthier lifestyle. I believe two of the most important things you can do for your child are to make sure that your child has a diet that includes whole foods and organic fruits and vegetables and that your child gets regular exercise. For all the cultural transformations in lifestyles over the past half-century, none has been more dramatic than the way we eat. The rise of fast-food chains and busy schedules has had a huge impact on our eating habits. Poor nutrition plays a huge role in the health problems that we’re seeing in our children. Providing balanced meals, rich in whole and organic foods, could give your child an advantage in combating the illnesses we see in so many children today, particularly obesity and diabetes. For the sake of our children, we need to start leading by example and provide them with nutritious options to junk food and fast food. A well-balanced diet is the basic foundation of good health that you can give your children. Children cannot protect themselves, and they did not create the environmental threats around them each day. Experts will tell you that a healthy diet, exercise, and reducing unnecessary chemical exposures can have a profound and positive impact on the health and well-being of our children. As parents, we cannot control everything, but we can control many things in our own environment. Making wise decisions is crucial to protecting our children and keeping them safe. You have more power and more control than you might think. And there is no better place to begin than in your own home.
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Greening the Cleaning® Program
Did You Know?
We can help eliminate your toxic cleaning products and replace them with healthier, environmentally-responsible ones that work and save you money in your: School, Healthcare Facility, Business, and Home
Our products are used in hundreds of hospitals, schools, businesses and thousands of homes across the country. 100% of all profits from our institutional products go to the Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for education and research to identify, control and ultimately prevent exposures to environmental factors that may cause adult, and especially pediatric, cancer, as well as other health problems with our children. 100% of all profits On the IMUS GTC retail line, go to the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer.
Call us for a free cost benefit analysis: (201) 336-8071 or email us on the web at: dienviro.com
For the retail line – visit imusranchfoods.com for a list of stores near you
Greening the Cleaning® products have been developed by The Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology® at Hackensack University Medical Center
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