People ask me all the time about the links between the tens of thousands of chemicals in our world and the skyrocketing rates of asthma, autism, cancer, and allergies. Although scientists have begun to study the cause and effect of many of these diseases, we still don't know with absolute certainty the reality behind these increases. But here's what we do know:
* The incidence of acute lymphocytic leukemia in children has increased more than 27 percent between 1973 and 1990.
* The incidence of childhood brain cancer increased almost 40 percent between 1973 and 1994.
* The incidence of the male genital defect hypospadias doubled, and the rate of testicular cancer among young men (age twenty to thirty-nine) rose by nearly 70 percent between 1973 and 1994.
* Autism, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, and hyperactivity disorder in children have risen at alarming rates.
Why is this happening? The causes are complex and not fully understood, but the nation's leading child health researchers say its no coincidence that these changes have occurred during the same decades that tens of thousands of new chemicals have come onto the market--chemicals used daily in homes, schools, and everywhere else...
One leading researcher and pediatrician states flatly: 'We are conducting a vast toxicological experiment, in which our children, and our children's children, are the experimental subjects.'
But this week, a major announcement brought us hope--we may have answers somewhere in the future. Researchers are embarking on a 21 year study in children to find explanations for the rising rates of childhood illnesses. The study, being conducted by the National Institute of Health, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Education, plans to include many possible factors including chemical exposures, genetics, geography, nutrition and pollution.
But some believe that the cost of this study, $2.7 billion to be exact, is exorbitant and could divert funding from other important research initiatives. The naysayers have a point--$2.7 billion is an enormous amount of money especially when we consider our current economy. But how can we ever put a price on the health of our children? This is an extremely comprehensive long-term study spearheaded by the best in the field. Our kids are spending too many sunny days away from the playground. Isn't it time for them to leave the EpiPens, the inhalers, and the chemotherapy at the hospital and live in a world where we think about prevention way before treatment.
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