As we’re currently making our way through Our Stolen Future, I came across this NYT article from Nicholas Kristof that looks at endocrine disruptors and mice studies. He explains why he, as an opinion writer and “pundit”, now covers the public health concern:
One answer is that obesity is an important national problem, partly responsible for soaring health care costs. Yet the chemical lobby, just like the tobacco industry before it, has impeded serious regulation and is even trying to block research.
A second is that journalists historically have done a poor job covering public health issues — we were slow on the dangers of tobacco and painfully delinquent in calling attention to the perils of lead — but these are central to our national well-being. Our lives are threatened less by the Taliban in Afghanistan than by unregulated contaminants at home.
He cites another article from Scientific American that asks if doctors should do more to inform pregnant women about “environmental risks:”
But Flynn is in the minority. A new nationwide survey of 2,600 obstetricians and gynecologists found that most do not warn their pregnant patients about chemicals in food, consumer products or the environment that could endanger their fetuses. More than half said they don’t warn about mercury, and hardly any of them give advice about lead, pesticides, air pollution or chemicals in plastics or cosmetics.
Leah also forwarded another NYT link, by food guru Mark Bittman, that looks at the widespread pesticide exposure everyone is exposed to. He includes a nod to a recent statement made by the American Association of Pediatrics to “reduce children’s exposure to pesticides” and ends his piece with a few recommendations of his own:
The long-term solution is to reduce pesticide use, and the ways to do that include some of the typical laundry-list items that find their way into every “how to improve American agriculture” story: rotate crops, which reduces attacks by invasive species; employintegrated pest management, which basically means “think before you spray”; better regulate pesticides (and both increase funding for and eliminate the revolving door policy at the Environmental Protection Agency) with an eye toward protecting the most vulnerable — that is, farmworkers, anyone of childbearing age, and especially women in their first trimester of pregnancy
; give farmers options for “conventional,” that is, non-genetically engineered seeds (around 95 percent of all seeds for soy, corn and cotton contain a pesticide-resistant gene, which encourages wanton spraying); and in general move toward using more organic principles.
What’s the best way to reduce exposures to endocrine disruptors and pesticides? How effective is warning pregnant women to avoid environmental exposures at preventing illness in their children? Is it reasonable to recommend that childbearing folk and parents of kids buy organic food, as Bittman does in his piece? I’d love to hear what everyone else thinks about this!