A rather curious thing happened to a friend of mine, not so long ago. At a routine visit to her pediatrician, she asked if he was concerned about the presence of phthalates in children’s toys. Her doctor stared at her blankly. When she patiently explained that phthalates were a plasticizer used to make rigid plastic soft enough to be poured into a mold, he rolled his eyes and muttered something about “fanatical mothers.”
Unfortunately it is this kind of quotidian response that has hampered the seismic regulatory shift required to bring meaningful legislation, not to mention protection to our children.
I asked Dr. Gavin ten Tusscher*, one of several renowned pediatricians in the film, why the medical profession seemed so behind on the science. This is what he had to say.
One of the main reasons why the effects of environmental chemicals on humans are not studied in medical school is because the medical profession as a whole, has lagged behind the science. Dr. Janna Koppe*, pioneering Dutch neonatologist is blunt in her assessment of the medical profession.
As she said later in her interview, “In the medical/scientific world there is not so much awareness, not yet. It’s coming now. It’s what…Dr. ten Tusscher is trying to promote and what I am trying to promote…that they become aware of this.”
Awareness has indeed been very slow in coming, but the tide has turned. Earlier this year, in a stunning rebuff to the voices resisting change, the American Academy of Pediatrics joined the American Medical Association in calling for reform to the thirty year old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Safer Chemical coalition announced “We can now add the well-researched and trusted voice of the nation’s pediatricians to those calling for reform of the U.S. chemical law. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that a new law must prioritize children’s health by protecting children and their families from dangerous chemicals. With this recommendation, AAP has joined the nation’s leading health organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, and the American Nurses Association, in calling for an overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which is widely understood to be ineffective at protecting the public from exposure to toxic chemicals.”
In addition to this, the American Medical Association (AMA), at their annual meeting held last month, formally recognized Bisphenol-A (BPA) as a potent estrogen and called for better labelling for products containing BPA.
One leading scientist told me “This swing in perspective is being driven by parents and mothers in particular, who go to their child’s doctor quoting random scientific studies, published in august scientific journals, and the doctor has no idea what they are talking about. It became clear that it was the parents who were alerting the doctors, not the other way around.”
A bit like my friend really, and all the other parents out there who had the courage to break with medical convention and do their own research to protect their children. If your doctor is unaware but interested in the effects of environmental chemicals on the health of babies and children, here are two organizations for physicians interested in environmental health.
Health Care Without Harm – http://www.hcwh.org/
Physicians for Social Responsibility – http://www.psr.org/
*You can find out more about the scientists contributing to Toxic Baby™ here.