Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 14, 2007
Unborn used as test rodents for chemicals – doctor
By JERRY FILTEAU
Catholic News Service
America is using "children as our test rodents" for thousands of new chemicals that have never been tested for toxicity to human life in the womb, said Dr. Philip Landrigan.
At a daylong conference April 30, Landrigan and other experts highlighted the scientific, ethical and moral links between effective clean environment policies and the life and health of the nation's children.
Landrigan said an estimated 300,000 to 600,000 children born in the United States each year suffer a loss of 0.2 to 24.4 IQ points because of methylmercury that passed through the placenta when they were in the womb.
Coal-burning electrical plants, waste incinerators and plants producing chlorine gas are responsible for most of the methylmercury found in the food chain worldwide.
Landrigan is director of the Center for Children's Health and the Environment at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. He spoke at a conference at the headquarters of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington.
PCBs still do their work
Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany of the State University of New York, described the toxic effects of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, when a metabolized form is transmitted from the mother to the child in her womb.
Although PCBs have been banned for decades, they remain in the environment in massive quantities and work their way up through the food chain.
Prenatal exposure to PCBs can increase compulsive behaviour and alter gender-specific behaviours, he said, but "the most damaging thing is the reduced ability to think."
Frederick vom Saal, a professor of reproductive biology at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said that phthalates - chemicals used to make polyvinyl chloride soft and pliable - are widely used in cosmetics in the United States although the European Parliament has banned such use.
Prenatal exposure to phthalates has been linked to premature birth, inhibited genital development, low testosterone, asthma, allergies and obesity, he said.
Industry creates uncertainty
Although 153 of 167 government-funded studies have found such exposure to phthalates harmful, chemical companies have produced 13 studies that concluded they are not harmful, vom Saal said.
The cosmetic industry uses those studies to create "scientific uncertainty" to stave off regulation, he said. He warned the group always to check who funds the research.