Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Environment & Disability Nexus

Keep an eye out for news coverage of this event. This is a conversation that is long overdue, and the proper basis for what I think might be some powerful alliances between environmentalists and disability advocates. One nitpick is that I'd like to see a greater emphasis on the iatrogenic (meaning introduced by medical care) component of environmental exposures, of which thimerosal is the biggest.

But I applaud this effort and am looking forward to more in the same vein.

Press release of Environmental Media Services follows
The Relationship Between Chemical Exposures and Incidence
Of Learning and Other Developmental Disabilities

Sponsored by
Senators Lautenberg, Clinton, DeWine, Jeffords, Kennedy, Kerry & Snowe

Groups Call for a Fully Funded National Children’s Study and
Chemical Regulation Policies That Better Protect Children

Washington, DC – Learning and developmental disabilities are estimated to affect one in six children in the U.S. under the age of 18, and scientists report that the rates appear to be increasing. The National Academies of Science estimates that 25 percent of developmental and neurological deficits in children are due to the interplay between environmental and genetic factors, and research indicates that the developing fetus and children are particularly vulnerable to chemical exposures. Of the more than 80,000 chemicals currently registered in the marketplace, only 12 neurotoxicants have been thoroughly studied. Exposure to these chemicals in the womb and throughout childhood can damage the developing brain and contribute to learning and developmental disabilities.

The health impacts of these exposures also have economic costs. A recent study conducted by the Mt.Sinai School of Medicine estimates that for mercury exposure alone, the cost to society is about $8.7 billion annually. These societal costs include significant expenditures for special education. In 1999-2000, the United States spent $77 billion for special education services to students with disabilities, which is almost a quarter of all spending on elementary and secondary school education that year. According to the U.S. Department of Education, special education spending continues to increase every year.

Experts at the briefing will address subjects including: the connection between chemical exposure and developmental disabilities; why the developmental disabilities community is concerned about chemical exposures; autism rates and the personal experience of mother of an autistic child; the promise of the National Children’s Study; and ways we make chemicals child-safe.

Bruce Lanphear, MD, MPH – Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center

Joe Meadours, Alabama Mental Health and Mental Retardation Department

Laura Hewitson, PhD – University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and autism researcher/mother of an autistic child

Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP – Mt. Sinai School of Medicine

Lynn Goldman, MD, MPH – Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University

Congressional briefing on the latest scientific understanding of the relationship between chemical exposures, and learning and other developmental disabilities.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005, 10:00- 11:30am.
406 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Sponsored by the American Association on Mental Retardation, Learning Disabilities Association of America’s Healthy Children Project, and the Collaborative on Health and the Environment’s Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative.

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