We measure environmental impact on adults, not kids

I have written several times about Sandra Steingraber. Who is she, you may ask? She is a biologist, ecologist, author and environmental advocate. Steingraber has spoken in front of the United Nations, the European Parliament and US Congress on the impact of chemicals on our environment and people.

Steingraber is a bladder cancer survivor which led her to her passionate advocacy. Bladder cancer is a bellweather cancer, meaning it is almost always caused by environmental toxins. Her home was in proximity to several chemical plants. In addition, her siblings and nearby cousins also had various cancers, including bladder cancer. A key factoid is she was adopted, so her cancer was not genetic and it came from exposure.

Steingraber has strongly advocated for kids on environmental issues. Her first two books called “Living Downstream” and “Raising Elijah,” using her son’s name, focus on these issues. A huge takeaway from her books and advocacy is we tend to measure the impact of environmental toxins on a fifty year old man, not children.

Why is this statement important? Kids are still developing their brains, so they are more susceptible to environmental toxins. Their lungs take time to fully develop as well. Plus, children are smaller in weight, closer to the ground, breathe more through their mouths and put their hands in their mouths with much greater frequency. If they touch something, it winds up in their mouth (remember the pretreated lumber playgrounds? – arsenic was used in the pretreatment).

Steingraber and other scientists’ analyses reveal toxins from chemical plants can damage us from air particulates as much as from seepage into the water. She notes these toxins settle on playgrounds, fields and trees, but then become airborne when the wind blows again. So, kids will often get exposed from what they touch or breathe in from what they scuff up from the ground.

I have seen her speak and have read both of these books. Her message resonates with parents. With the assault on environmental regulations by the current White House, her message is needed even more. Plus, she has another huge caution for all of us. As the climate warms, the impact of these chemicals will only get worse. She likens the earth to a crock pot that is warming these chemicals.

I encourage you to read her books. Her message is pertinent, loud and clear. It needs to be shouted from the rooftops, but especially from the playgrounds. We owe it to our children.

21 thoughts on “We measure environmental impact on adults, not kids

  1. While we’re at it, let’s not exclude the toxic effects of growing up in a culture of random mass murders, rapist presidents, streets teeming with the destitute and disabled and debates over whether pedophilia is a crime if the child says yes.

    I’ve never known a more sordid moment in American politics.

    • Rob, these are very toxic as well. We seem to have lost our way. The EPA is loosening the reins on environmental concerns while the Justice department is tightening the reins on civil rights. We seem to forget the 2nd amendment comes after that first one, but too many feel the 2nd gives us the right to be a one person army. Keith

      • Rob, I think that is an excellent idea. We must speak to truth in news. The Washington Post article on Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore is well-sourced from a reputable paper. Some of the tribal support in Alabama is quite interesting and disturbing. So, I think we owe it to each other to follow reputable news and remember we are Americans first. Keith

  2. Note to Readers: Steingraber is a big believer in organic growing. She contends the insects, worms and other organisms do naturally what is needed to replenish the soil. The farmer in the book “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman,” advocates a variation of this. For his wheat and alfalfa fields he uses a no-tilling method which keeps those organisms more in tact and preserves the top soil. He does use some pesticides, but fewer than most farmers. He also is a believer in growing what grows well in that region – wheat and alfalfa grow naturally in Kansas. When I read this, I was reminded of Steongraber’s beliefs.

  3. Recently, Trump signed an executive order to reverse a ban on a pesticide shown to cause nerve damage in children. And I recently read that much of the drinking water in the U.S. contains potentially carcinogenic chemicals. Add to that the reversal of the regulation that kept coal companies from dumping their sludge into streams. We seem to be hell-bent and determined to destroy ourselves.

    • Jill, you are so right. These attacks on regulations end up killing or harming people. His fan base need to know that his actions are doing that. I shared earlier Michael Lewis, the author of “The Big Short” and “Money Ball,” sought the Obama folks who prepared briefing book fang made themselves available for Trump folks, who were larger no shows. He asked for and got the briefings.

      He noted on Charlie Rose, 13 of the 14 lead positions in the Dept of Agriculture remain unfilled. One of those is a position that oversees the Innovation grants for agricultural study, such as growing crops with climate change. The woman who had the position was a scientist with 30 years of experience in ag-science. You would think this might be an important position. Keith

      • You would think … but this world is not the one from a decade ago. It is truly an alternative universe where profit and greed trump (pun intended) all else, even the health of our children.

      • Jill, most of what Trump advocates is based on a foundation of lies and oversimplifications. He should also thank his predecessor for handing him the baton on a pretty good economy which is now 100 consecutive months strong in economic growth. Keith

    • Hugh, thanks. Your point on self-inflicted (and addictive) harm to the brain is an important addition. Reading Jill’s comment reveals what more people need to know. People who say this President is doing a great job have no clue how much damage he is doing to their health. The deregulation of environmental protections and attack on climate change actions is extremely harmful. Keith

  4. Note to Readers: Steingraber notes it is very hard for impacted citizens to take on big business. Her struggles in proving the cancer link on her family to the chemical manufacturing mirror that of Erin Brockovich’s against Pacific Gas & Electric. It should not lead to a movie.

    In America, industry does not support the Precautionary Principle, which is embraced elsewhere. In short, if there is a concern that an activity a company is doing may harm people, the company should spend money early to determine if it is. In our country, the burden is on the people years afterward.

  5. Listening to the radio this morning a gentleman from a libertarian think tank seems to think that this talk is all down to alarmists, that governments can’t wave a magic wand (I wonder if he meant in the literal? He wasn’t clear) and it will all be sorted out by business innovation.
    A professor came on afterwards, seething….and still made a more rational, coherent case.
    Sadly the strong libertarians haven’t really got to make much effort with an oaf in the Whitehouse.

    • Roger, I would disagree with the Libertarian’s alarmist comment. I like to tell people I am a tree hugger and a capitalist. One of the reasons the EPA was created was the river in Cleveland was so polluted it caught fire. The other was Rachel Carson who wrote “Silent Spring” and testified in front of Congress while she had cancer.

      Sandra Steingraber, who has been called the new Rachel Carson, reminds of the arsenic coated playground equipment that killed and harmed kids. She remind us of those plastic kids’ raincoats that hurt kids.

      Plus, there is the flame retardant fabric industry who lied to Americans using faulty data when it was being proven their product was killing firefighters and causing breast cancer in women (just by being there). In addition to Pacific Gas and Electric, there is TVA who had s major breach of a coal ash pond that spilled into the water system and Duke a Energy whose internal reports confirmed they knew about a faulty pipe construct years before a coal ash breach that spilled into the Dan River. I could go on for this Libertarian. It is not alarmist – they are accidents waiting to happen. Keith

      • Roger, while I was typing this an news tease came on that said Duke Energy’s independent review of what to do about their coal ash problem was not very independent. But, to illustrate the capitalist side of environmental problems, Duke could have fixed the bad pipe twenty years ago for $20,000, when it was first discovered. Now, they had to pay millions to clean up that problem and even more to clean up related coal ash problems. So, doing the right thing can save money. Sorry for the soapbox speech. Keith

      • Hi Keith I applaud you for being a tree hugger and a capitalist, as with an open mind and imagination the two are quite compatible.
        It’s the pursuit of profit for its own sake is the destroyer.
        Just as on my side of the political fence (being Hard-Left), the inflexible control by a doctrinal state is equally destructive.

      • Roger, what many in the US do not understand, is our model is not pure capitalism. It is fettered capitalism with socialistic underpinnings – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, insider trading rules, anti-collusion rules, bankruptcy rules, etc.

        If we were purely capitalistic, Donald Trump would have lost all of his money years ago. Keith

  6. Dear Keith,
    There has been an increase in diagnosing disorders like autism, ADHD, learning disabilities,allergies, asthmatic conditions which all could be possibly due to added toxins in their environments and foods. Then come the more serious illnesses like cancers.
    If those White Evangelicals who are enablers of racists and climate change deniers really valued the gift of life, they would work towards cleaner air and waters no matter what is causing climate change.

    Hugs, Gronda.

    • Gronda, you raise two sets of great points. First, Steingraber makes the same could connection you do on the increase in mental challenges for children. She also notes doctors are ill-equipped to ask questions about a patient’s environment.

      Second, I have shared the comments of a priest, rabbi and imam who said their religious texts tell us God wants us to take care of the world he gave us. That sounds important to me. Keith

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