Those with young children will know that recently there has been a lot of concern around harmful substances being found in toys, soothers and basically everything that kids will put in their mouths – which those with young children will also know is pretty much everything. From lead levels in toys that exceed safety standards, to BPA in baby bottles and endocrine disrupting phthalates in rubber ducks and soothers…it’s enough to make a parent seek out hand-made, locally crafted wooden toys.
Now, an article published in Health Affairs has estimated that in 2008, the cost in the U.S. to treat children who became sick because of exposure to toxic chemicals and air pollutants was $76.6 billion (yes, that’s billion with a “b”). Closer to home, on the same day that the Health Affairs article was released, our friends at Women’s College Hospital’s Environmental Health Clinic held their first, of what will hopefully become an annual, Environmental Health Conference. Topics included an overview of the link between environmental exposures and chronic health conditions, and the limitation of current methods to determine “safe” levels of exposure, the effect of prenatal and childhood exposures to metals such as lead and mercury, the body burden of plastics and the potential health effects of indoor air quality.
I’ve always said that as healthcare workers, we’re in a unique position to see how our impacts on the environment also impact our health…and as the evidence around environmental health grows, so does our motivation to make health care sustainable…because health care should not create health problems.