More and more everyday Science is showing us the impact of dirty fossil fuel on the health of children.
ProPublica first reported on suspected health problems related to proximity to oil and gas development in an article in 2011, entitled, Science Lags as Health Problems Emerge near Oil & Gas Fields. As the title suggests, at the time there were very few studies to back up growing anectodal concerns. In March of 2014 ProPublica’s second major investigative news article on the health impacts of individuals living near gas drilling highlighted numerous studies and the mounting body of scientific research for the public to consider. They noted The Journal of Environmental Science and Technology research published in February 2014 that critically reviewed a compendium of research but unfortunately could not scientifically affirm that the rising number of adverse health impacts reported by those living near gas drilling operations was a direct result of their proximity to these operations.. We consider the March, 2014 Pro Publica article an important effort to bring this issue to the public’s attention especially as it outlines the difficulties involved in obtaining valid data.
Of specific interests to The Mothers Project and one we would like to bring attention to is the body of scientific knowledge that has emerged on the broad negative impacts pertaining to children’s health. Not only are scientists looking at the impact of the fossil fuel industry on the environment and overall climate, in terms of drilling for “natural” gas i.e. methane, but they are also scrutinizing the over all impacts of all phases of the drilling, production and delivery from the fossil fuel industry as it relates to health with specific consequences for children, those living now and those yet to be born.
Those of us who have been pregnant or are thinking about becoming pregnant know how important it is to prepare a healthy intra-uterine environment for the developing fetus to grow in. We eat the right foods, stop smoking if we ever did, greatly limit our alcohol intake, get good rest and just the right amount of exercise. We do this because we know how important it is to keep ourselves healthy so that the growing embryo will do the same.
All the same we are now faced with many elements that are well beyond our control.
While we may strive to give the child the best possible environment that we can influence by these actions, most of us are naïve to the perils in our everyday environment. As early as the 1990’s, we learned that the traditional toxicological testing protocols used to determine chemical safety had completely missed vast numbers of chemicals that are capable of penetrating the womb and are doomed to interfere with normal development.
We also have come to understand through scientific study of the past several decades that only infinitesimally small quantities of certain chemicals impacting the critical periods of development in utero can alter one’s inherited phenotype. These chemicals have come to be known as endocrine disruptors because they interfere with the development of the endocrine system-a system responsible for the major human abilities-the ability to learn, to love, to bond, to process information, to reproduce and even to maintain normal body weight.
Recently, a wide range of mass media reports have highlighted the dramatic increase in recent years of incidents of infertility, ADHD, autism, diabetes, thyroid disorders, and childhood and adult cancers. These devastating outcomes, now regularly being directly linked to fetal exposure, have become global and epidemic in scope. Needless to say, the cost of this epidemic is catastrophic on both an emotional and economic level to families and to the economy at large.
As scientists focus on the impacts of fossil fuels on generational harm, the public can no longer ignore these issues by brushing them aside as political or bi-partisan. Significant contributions to our knowledge are being made and are being offered to the public in lay language making it possible for all to grasp the nature of the current health crisis..
Leading in this field is Dr. Theo Colborn who has published and lectured extensively on the consequences of prenatal exposure to synthetic chemicals by the developing embryo and fetus in wildlife, laboratory animals, and humans. I can think of no other authority in this area who has contributed more to the current state of our knowledge on the developing embryo, then Dr. Colborn. In her retirement Dr. Colborn establish the TEDX, Endocrine Disruptor Exchange, which is now carrying on her work, to provide objective, technical information about endocrine disruption and related low-exposure hazards for academicians, policy makers, government employees, community-based and health support groups, public health authorities, physicians, the media, and individuals.
As you tap into TEDX your exploration will lead you to learn about low dose impacts that can and do create generational changes. A list of endocrine disruptors found in our every day environment is provided, along with an easy to understand explanation of how they influence embryonic development.
Some of the more recent research reported at the TEDX exchange involves the topic of Chemicals in Natural Gas Operations.
An additional and important source of information is The Center for Environmental Health. Their brilliant distillation of this current research can be found in the form of educational power points and videos and are excellent educational tools. See: Webinar Series: Fracking Natural Gas and Maternal Health.
New literature is emerging, written by expert medical professionals, to help parents think about what they can do to protect their children’s immune system and keep them out of harm’s way.
The Mothers Project believes that an educated citizenry, and concerned parents will and must demand legislation that supports sustainable energy alternatives. Parents as protectors must follow the precautionary principle and not wait to act until harm is done. Yes, more targeted research is important but we have a sufficient body of factual scientific knowledge as a basis for quick action.