Just take one look at Pinterest – loaded with ideas on going green, eating organic/made from scratch, and opting for homemade/all-natural products – and you can see that moms know: There’s something in the water (and our foods, cleaners, toys, you name it). We all know families affected by autism, asthma, ADHD, early puberty, food allergies… any number of health and development issues that weren’t so common decades ago.
While mothers across the country face those health and development issues and ask "why?" an EPA report with some possible answers (that could spare other mothers down the road) reportedly sits collecting dust on some desks in D.C.
We've all heard about the different theories and smaller studies on chemicals affecting everything from fertility to child development. Now, a large-scale report (America's Children and the Environment, Third Edition) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is available and could possibly bring change to our kids' exposure to chemicals – but it's just bouncing around between bureaus and sitting on the president's desk (as similar reports sat on the desk of presidents before him).
Taking on the huge chemicals industry in the U.S. is no easy task, and the Washington is too caught up in politics to act in families’ best interest, it seems. While we've cracked down or wizened up on our exposure to some harmful substances like lead, mercury, and PCBs, we've come to enjoy/appreciate/accept/ignore the role of many other chemicals that have crept into our daily lives – for things like non-stick pans and stain-proof fabrics, squishy plastic toys and grease-fighting detergents, long-lasting perfumes and colorful fireworks. Those things are great... but maybe we're paying a risky price for them.
In response to the EPA’s critical report, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) – the main trade group for the chemicals industry – said that its members "apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products and services that make people’s lives better, healthier and safer."
“The exclusive focus on exposure is particularly problematic as it may lead to the incorrect conclusion that exposure to chemicals (e.g. phthalates) at any level is not only cause for concern, but also a direct source of negative health effects,” ACC senior toxicologist Richard A. Becker said in response to the report, according to NBC News.
NBC News reported that Becker "also expressed the ACC’s contention that EPA was painting too bleak a picture of children’s health in America."
“It is troubling that the draft ACE report seems to make such little effort to provide a complete overall picture of child health in the United States,” Becker said. “For example, the draft report does not refer to The Health and Well-Being of Children: A Portrait of States and the Nation … which concludes the health and well-being of children in the U.S. is improving overall with 84.4% of children in the United States listed as being in excellent or very good health, an increase from 83% in 2003.”
But that picture of children's overall health didn't seem to jive with what we've all heard about rising rates of autism and other developmental disorders. So I did a little digging and found that a sister report to the one Becker sites: Children with Special Health Care Needs in Context: A Portrait of States and the Nation (basically a look at children with special health care needs, defined as those who have one or more chronic physical, developmental, behavioral or emotional conditions for which they require an above routine type or amount of health and related services). Here's what I found in that report: 13.9 percent of kids had special needs in 2005-06, and 19.2 percent had special needs in 2007. So, we’ve jumped to one in five households in the U.S. having a child with special needs. Hmm...
There’s something very Erin Brockovich or Michael Clayton about all of this.
I'm not trying to spread fear – only awareness. Constantly worrying about this stuff could drive any mom into a paranoid "boy in the bubble" lifestyle – and the bubble would probably be made with chemicals, too! But I do think there's something to be said about going green, eating organic, and using natural cleaners when we can – at least while our leaders figure out who’s in charge of cracking down on... whatever it is that’s in the water.